Toronto is riding the high of a three-game winning streak heading into the overseas showdown against Orlando and the club will be looking to exact some revenge as well — Scott Skiles’ club handed Dwane Casey’s crew its first lost of the season back in November after the Raptors had started the year 5-0.
Outside of DeMarre Carroll (knee surgery) and some team-wide jet lag, Toronto is healthy and ready to roll. The Magic, on the other hand, will be down at least one key body.
Forward Aaron Gordon rolled his ankle towards the end of Orlando’s practice on Wednesday afternoon and he’s now officially listed as questionable for Thursday’s game. But the Magic did get some good news when they learned guard Elfrid Payton is expecting to return to the lineup against the Raptors. He has missed four straight games with a left-ankle bone bruise.
Orlando has lost three of the four games since Payton was sidelined, and five out of six in 2016.
MORE SOCCER TALK
Much has been made -- in this space and others -- about the handful of Raptors that planned to attend Wednesday night’s match between Chelsea and West Brom.
But Payton and Magic teammate Nik Vucevic were scheduled to be in attendance as well.
An NBA representative told me that a number of Premier League players (no names given…yet) are planning to take in Thursday’s game at the O2 Arena, and they’ll be alongside celebrities like Idris Elba and chef Gordon Ramsay.
A sellout crowd is expected.
MORE BIG NAMES
The league office has also invited a number of former players to attend the Magic versus Raptors game, including Horace Grant, Muggsy Bogues, Rick Fox, John Amaechi and Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon. Commissioner Adam Silver will also be in attendance.
A number of the names listed above will join yours truly, live, during Sportsnet’s broadcast of the game.
Rogers announced on Wednesday it had partnered up with the NBA and BT Sport to deliver Thursday’s game in 4K. It’s the first live NBA game to be broadcast in 4K.
Rogers cable customers can tune their NextBox 4k set to Channel 999 to get the game at four-times the pixels of HD.
The Raptors and Magic tip off a lot of 4K coverage that will be coming to Rogers in 2016 and beyond, including select marquee NHL games and every Toronto Blue Jays home game.
THE GLOBAL GAME
Outside of the common chatter that has been stressed by Dwane Casey and company throughout their stay in London -- “This is a business trip” -- another interesting topic came up Wednesday when Luis Scola weighed in on a number of European-related queries, from the league hosting more games overseas to the NBA actually expanding to Europe and beyond.
Scola was not necessarily on board with full-out expansion outside North America, and logistically I just don’t see how it would be feasible either (let alone the financial implications -- currency rates/values being right up there among the issues), but he did think the league could do more than just the one game that’s currently on tap.
The veteran big man said he’d prefer to see a handful of teams make the trip across the pond to play three or four games over a week-and-a-half period, as opposed to the current set up that has Toronto and Orlando committing a week of travel in the middle of the season for only one game.