With ten games remaining in the scheduled the Toronto Raptors are set to face the Orlando Magic on the road. The Raptors are in a rare position having clinched their first playoff birth in quite a number of years, however the work is not done for this team. The doubters have only just started voicing their opinions about the Raptors playoff hopes, and the Magic look to play the NBA’s version of a bracket-buster, hoping to catch the Raptors off-guard. The Raptors need to come out with energy and continue their dominance against the Magic having won their last 6 match-ups. The Raptors sit only 2.5 games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets, and they play the T’Wolves today, so some ground in the Atlanctic could be won or lost today.
Cages’ Keys to the Game
Show Dominance Early
The Toronto Raptors are probably feeling great right now. They’ve worked extremely hard this season and were rewarded by clinching a playoff birth. Throw in the fact that they get to travel into some warm Florida weather and you got yourself a group of happy guys. The Raptors need not to get distracted by their recent accolades as the true test is only just beginning. Teams are going to go at the Raptors hoping they’ve settled, so the Raptors need to counter that by going for the kill early. The Raptors are a playoff team now, it’s time they start ramping it up.
The Raptors bench has seemed to be in an inconsistent lull since Patrick Patterson‘s been out. This is one of those games that the bench can get their reps in, and start getting tuned for the playoffs. Greivis Vasquez has been wonderful as the only shot creator off the bench, but we’re gonna need the likes of Nando de Colo and John Salmons to step it up. This isn’t a game where Dwane Casey needs to exhaust his starters either, so expect him to go deep into his rotation this evening.
Hit the Glass
The Magic may not be the most intimidating team on the interior, however they are a scrappy bunch. One player in particular on the Magic roster is able to combine his scrappiness with the right amount of finesse to gravitate towards the basketball at will. His name is Nikola Vucevic and he’s averaging 11.1 rebounds per game, which is good for 8th in the league. If the Raptors don’t put a body on this guy, he has the ability of dropping a 20-20 game. Easy. Controlling the glass will give the Raptors a much better chance of controlling the game, so let’s not forget to box out tonight gentlemen.
The Magic are a lottery bound team with a lot of competent scoring talent. Toronto can’t afford another slow start because Victor Oladipo, Aaron Afflalo and Tobias Harris can all put up points in a hurry. The team is the healthiest Toronto’s seen them all year, and they’re coming off a couple big wins against playoff competition (Portland and Charlotte). Get stops, lock them down early and get ready for the next one. That needs to be the Raptors mentality for this final stretch of games moving forward.
X-Factor: Jonas Valanciunas
From his defence on Nikola Vucevic, to the impact he’ll need to have early on, look for Jonas Valanciunas to have his hands all over this game. The Magic don’t present the most intimidating front court, so JV is gonna come into this game looking to beast. This season he’s averaged 10 pts 12 rebs in 30 mins against the Magic. In his last two outings Valanciunas has averaged 14 pts 11 rebs in 35 mins, so lets hope for Jonas to continue his solid play against the Magic.