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Eight NBA games that will fill the Raptors’ playoff wait

Eight NBA games that will fill the Raptors’ playoff wait
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The Lakers won’t have Avery Bradley, who decided to sit out the restart, and Rajon Rondo, who fractured his right thumb in Orlando. But they do have LeBron James and Anthony Davis and the best record in the West. A tough opening game.

A nice holiday Monday afternoon game is never a bad thing. The Heat and Raptors always seem to play grind-it-out games that are low scoring and go down the last possession or two. No reason to expect that tradition to end in a neutral site.

The Magic are in eighth place in the East and are more interested in catching injury-ravaged No. 7 Brooklyn then they are worried about being caught by No. 9 Washington. Moving up a spot would allow them to avoid Milwaukee in the first round.

This might be the game that ultimately decides the race between the Raptors and Celtics for the second spot in the East. Home court doesn’t mean an awful lot in this new format but it could mean a big difference in a first-round matchup.

It won’t have nearly as much juice as the originally scheduled home-and-home series with the Grizzlies would have, but Marc Gasol and Jonas Valanciunas playing their old teams for the first time will be fun. And there will be throwback jerseys!

Just about the perfect time in the eight-game seeding season for the East powerhouses to meet. The standings will likely be decided by this point but gaining some live intel on what the other team looks like may certainly come in handy later.

The Raptors turned their series with the Sixers last spring when they went big with Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol playing together. With Ben Simmons now a power forward, that might be needed again. And the mystery of whether Joel Embiid will play is always fun.

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The last game of any regular season between two teams priming themselves for what they hope are long playoff runs are often contested by makeshift rosters. There is likely to be a fair amount of “load management” going on for this game.
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