The Raptors and Magic are booth looking for a fifth straight win tonight when they meet at the Air Canada Centre in a battle of the Eastern Conference’s two hottest teams.
Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Mickael Pietrus, Ed Davis, Jonas Valanciunas
Orlando: Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson, Nikola Vucevic (I’m just going to guess that Jacque Vaughn gives Nicholson his first career start in his hometown with Big Baby out, though I could also see Josh McRoberts at the four)
Toronto: Kyle Lowry and Andrea Bargnani are out
Orlando: Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington are all out
- The Magic have been surprisingly competitive so far in the short post-Dwight Howard Era, but the Raptors have actually had luck on their side in matchups against Orlando this season. J.J. Redick missed the first meeting of the season and Glen Davis hurt his shoulder in the Magic’s last game on Wednesday. Davis will be out for the next 4-6 weeks, making him unavailable for tonight’s game as well as next weekend’s matchup in Orlando. Of course, if you’re a Raptors fan, you know luck hasn’t been on your side much at all this season, so you’ll take it any way it comes.
- If you thought Jose Calderon’s 17-assist performance against Detroit on Wednesday was impressive, then I’ll remind you that he actually had 18 assists in the aforementioned first meeting between the Raptors and Magic this season, which Toronto won 97-86. In other words, don’t be surprised if Calderon picks Orlando apart tonight.
- Neither of the two teams’ four-game winning streaks are particularly impressive – Orlando has beat four teams with a combined winning percentage of .408, while Toronto’s last four opponents have a measly winning percentage of .349 and both have won three of their four at home – and I know I’ve been teasing about the whole “two hottest teams in the East” thing, but at the end of the day, you can only beat who they put in front of you, and for the last week anyway, both of these teams have taken care of business. For the Magic, a win tonight would see them improbably get to .500 after 26 games, putting first year coach Jacque Vaughn in some very early Coach of the Year discussion.
- For the Raptors, a win would still see them sitting 10 games below .500, but it would also send them into their four-day Christmas break on a five-game streak that’s gone a long way in almost resurrecting their season. Winning five games in a row after the horrid start the Raptors got off to isn’t enough to fool anyone into believing they’re ready to compete for a playoff spot, but it would be enough to create hope that meaningful games may lie ahead in the new year, and considering how awful this season started, that in itself would be a minor victory for fans.