Season Series: Raptors 2-0
After the Toronto Raptors clinched a playoff berth with Friday’s victory over the Boston Celtics, they were quick to point out their hard work wasn’t finished. Looking to finish the regular season strong, winning the Atlantic Division is the next goal on Toronto’s list. The Raptors hold a 2.5 game lead on the Brooklyn Nets at the top of the division going into Sunday’s contest against the Orlando Magic.
Just 21-52 on the season, the Magic have won their last two games, including a tough overtime victory against the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday. Before flying to Orlando on Saturday afternoon, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey stressed the importance of not taking any opponent lightly as the season winds down.
Kyle Lowry has been fantastic in two meetings with Orlando this season, averaging better than 30 points per contest.
Sunday’s game is the first in a back-to-back that will have Toronto in Miami on Monday to face the Heat.
What To Watch
Defence first: The Toronto Raptors have embraced Casey’s defence-first mindset this season, but they need to focus on tightening things up over their final 10 games of the regular season. While they were victorious on Friday night, they gave up 103 points to the Celtics on 53-percent shooting. Over a 6-1 stretch at home against Eastern Conference opponents, Orlando is averaging more than 107 points per contest.
Nikola Vucevic: Averaging 14 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, Nikola Vucevic can put numbers on the board in a hurry. Example: In Orlando’s victory over the Bobcats, Vucevic finished with 24 points and 23 rebounds, 10 offensive. Toronto will have to work to keep the 7-footer off the glass in Sunday’s game.
Toronto’s bench: After a string of disappointing showings, Casey challenged his bench prior to Toronto’s game against Boston. They responded. Led by Greivis Vasquez’s 15 points and five assists and Chuck Hayes’ efforts on the defensive end, Toronto’s second unit showed up. As the postseason gets closer, the bench needs to continue to be ready so the team can try to buy its starters rest whenever possible.
“They’ve [Orlando] been playing very good basketball. We’ve been preaching all along, teams that are out of the playoff picture like Boston, like Orlando, even Philadelphia, are playing basketball that can beat you. They’re playing freely. They’re shooting the ball freely, they’re making plays they probably normally wouldn’t make if they were under pressure to win some. They’re also trying to prove themselves. It’s a dangerous type of game we’re playing. We have no luxury of having an emotional letdown.” – Dwane Casey on staying focused against non-playoff teams
“Finishing out the season strong. We’ve got one goal accomplished which was making the playoffs. The next things moving on to the next goal which is finishing out the season strong. We know teams are going to come at us and still play hard so we’ve got to match every team’s energy and finish out the season strong.” – Amir Johnson on Toronto’s focus now that they’ve clinched a spot in the playoffs
“Guys have done a good job of understanding what we’re fighting for but not really focusing on it. Trying to go a game at a time. We preach that all the time and they’e done a good job with that and that’s vert rare for a young team to understand to stay focused, not even game by game, but possession by possession.” – Dwane Casey on the challenge of not looking too far ahead
Raptors: Kyle Lowry (G), DeMar DeRozan (G), Terrence Ross (F), Amir Johnson (F), Jonas Valanciunas (C)
Magic: Jameer Nelson (G), Aaron Afflalo (G), Maurice Harkless (F), Kyle O’Quinn (F), Nikola Vucevic (C)
Raptors: Patrick Patterson – right ulnar collateral sprain (day-to-day)
By The Numbers: Raptors vs. Magic
|2013-14 AVERAGES||2013-14 RANKINGS|
Last Time They Met: Raptors 105, Magic 90 – Feb. 23rd, 2014