TORONTO, ON – MARCH 1 – Serge Ibaka (9) of the Toronto Raptors after hitting a 3 point shot during the 2nd half of NBA action as the Washington Wizards defeat the Toronto Raptors 105-96 at the Air Canada Centre on March 1, 2017. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Now that the 2018-2019 NBA regular season is over, the weak teams are left planning for next season. In the playoffs, only the strongest eight teams from each conference remain. The Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic are two such teams, sitting at second and seventh respectively in the East. The Raptors and Magic are set to square off in a first-round playoff series that begins on Saturday. 

The Toronto Raptors’ Keys to Success

The regular season series between Toronto and Orlando was split evenly, with each team winning two of four games. The upcoming best-of-seven series will not be nearly as competitive if the Raptors are healthy.

Danny Green and Marc Gasol alone have more playoff experience than the entirety of the Magic roster. That experience becomes paramount come April, and the Raptors have plenty outside of Green and Gasol. Kawhi Leonard is a champion and Finals MVP. Kyle Lowry has been to the postseason for the past five years, and Gasol’s Memphis Grizzlies were a Western Conference powerhouse once upon a time. Not to mention, Serge Ibaka has missed the postseason just once in his ten-year career.

The Orlando Magic’s Keys to Success

The Magic do pose a threat to the Raptors because of their defense and the steady presence of Nikola Vucevic. Orlando’s defensive wings are good matchups for Kawhi and emerging star Pascal Siakam. The length that Jonathan Isaac possesses is a weapon in and of itself. Mohamed Bamba is a beast with a 7’10” wingspan, and Aaron Gordon can guard wings and big men alike.

A first-time All-Star this season, Vucevic (20.8 points and 12 boards per game) carries the load offensively along with Gordon (16.0 points and 7.4 boards per game) and can be a solid rim protector on the other end (1.1 blocks per game). Former Raptor Terrence Ross has quietly been having his best NBA season (15.1 points on 38.3% shooting from deep) and will likely be a factor in this series.

In addition, former Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford has been instrumental in turning the Magic organization around. However, the key for the Magic is certainly Vucevic, who averaged 26.5 points in two wins against the Raptors. In the two regular-season losses, he averaged just 13.5.

The Outcome

The Magic have a case for an upset bid over the Raptors because of their regular season success against them. Don’t bet on Orlando though — the Raptors have too many scorers to cover, and their already-tight defense will become impenetrable come Saturday. The Raptors team the Magic blew out twice won’t show up to four playoff games. Their postseason experience ensures that.

Still, any realistic, self-aware Raptors fan has to have some apprehension coming into the series. The all-too-vivid memories of LeBron James sweeping their team year-after-year weigh heavily on their minds, and who can blame them? Truthfully, fans have no reason to worry. This is a different coach and a (mostly) different team.

The Raptors outclass the Magic in every way. Defensively, with Toronto having Siakam, Kawhi, Green, Ibaka, and OG Anunoby the Magic are not going to score easily. On offense, any Raptor can score at will on any given day. So, assuming both teams are completely healthy, the Raptors are going to dispatch Orlando in five games to move on. 

Main Photo

TORONTO, ON – MARCH 1 – Serge Ibaka (9) of the Toronto Raptors after hitting a 3 point shot during the 2nd half of NBA action as the Washington Wizards defeat the Toronto Raptors 105-96 at the Air Canada Centre on March 1, 2017. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)


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