The Toronto Raptors will finish their five game road trip in London, when they matchup against the Orlando Magic at 3 p.m. ET.
Not having played since Saturday, the long stretch of rest will have an impact on the Raptors as they look to win their fourth consecutive game. Most importantly, the Raptors will try to not face their second loss of the season from the Magic, after losing their Nov. 6 matchup by a score of 92-87.
The Raptors will still be without DeMarre Carroll when they face the Magic, who’ll be welcoming back Elfrid Payton after missing the last four game due to an ankle injury.
Cage’s Keys to the Game
The Raptors, the current 2nd seed in the East, have to come out and be confident when they play the 8th seed Orlando Magic.
After losing their first matchup of the season, the Raptors need to prove to themselves and their opponents that they’re better than the middle of the pack. That starts with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who put up less than their usual number of field goal attempts in their previous matchup.
It’s obvious that coach Skiles of the Magic will have his team ready for another upset against the Raptors, since the Magic haven’t had a respectable win since the start of the New Year.
They’re only win coming against the lousy Brooklyn Nets, giving them a 1-5 record.
With the way things are going, the Raptors might even find themselves facing the Magic in the first round of the playoffs. When that times comes, they’ll need every bit of the mental edge they can get. That includes the result of today’s game.
Valanciunas Has To Be Big
The last time the Raptors faced up against the Magic, they were fortunate that they didn’t have to deal with Nikola Vucevic. Now in the rotation, the Magic will be sure to utilize their 7-footer who leads the team in usage percentage, as well as points with 17.1 a game.
A way for the Raptors to make sure he doesn’t constantly burn them on offence, is to make him use his energy on the defensive end of the floor. Defence has always been Vucevic’s weakness, and it should be Dwane Casey’s game plan to expose it by using Jonas Valanciunas to his full offensive ability.
Valanciunas has been great this season when the offence has gone through him. In the eight games that he’s had double-digit field goal attempts, the Raptors are 6-2. The only losses coming against Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat, and Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.
Otherwise known as the two best shot blockers in the NBA.
X-Factor: Cory Joseph
With Payton rejoining the Magic’s lineup, Victor Oladipo will soon be back to playing as the sixth man. His scoring off the bench has been great for coach Skiles, helping him balance the Magic’s offence when Payton and Evan Fournier are getting some rest.
In the 20 games this season that Oladipo has played coming off the bench, he’s scored in double-digits 16 of those times. With him playing as a reserve, it’ll be time for the Raptors six man, Cory Joseph to step up to the defensive challenge.
The matchup should be exciting on both ends of the floor. The last time they played, Joseph had one of his best games of the season, scoring 19 points on 78 per cent shooting from the field. Oladipo also had a great performance with 18 points, 7 boards and 7 assists to help the Magic earn the win.
You can follow Bryan Meler on Twitter @BryanMelo97