Eastern Conference NBA Picks: Back Raptors Against Magic In London

Jason Lake

Thursday, January 14, 2016 12:00 PM GMT

The Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic will be playing in London on Thursday. How will that affect the NBA odds, and does it give either of these teams an advantage?

Jason's 2015-16 record as of Jan. 12: 13-14-1 ATS, 4-1 Total
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Free NBA Pick: Raptors –4 (–105)
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

 

The Eastern Conference is back, baby. As we go to press, there are eight teams in the East with winning records, including the Toronto Raptors (24-15 SU, 22-17 ATS) and the Orlando Magic (20-18 SU, 22-15 ATS). Both teams have exceeded expectations this year, even though both teams were going into the new season with designs on bigger things. How does that cheesy saying go – never let the great be the enemy of the good.

So how well do these teams travel? The Raptors and Magic will be playing this Thursday (3:00 p.m. ET, NBA-TV) at the O2 Arena in London; Orlando is the official “home” team in this matchup, but Toronto is a 4-point chalk on the NBA odds board as we go to press, with a fairly low total of 192.5 points. Our early consensus reports show 56 percent of first responders taking the Magic.

 

Let Me Take You to Trafalgar Square
It's a pretty rare thing for two NBA teams to be playing on a neutral court. It also makes our NBA picks a lot easier to produce. They'll be playing indoors, so we don't have to worry about factoring in the lousy weather or any of that. Indeed, we could hit the “easy” button and just look at the Simple Rating System at Basketball-Reference, where Toronto (+3.08 SRS) is a shade less than four points better than Orlando (–0.50 SRS). Smell the value.

Then again, the Raptors have been here before. They played a two-game series against the New Jersey Nets at the O2 Arena back in 2011, losing both games but splitting the cash. DeMar DeRozan (21.1 PER, +1.3 BPM) and James Johnson (14.3 PER, +0.5 BPM) were both with Toronto at the time. The Magic haven't played in the NBA Global Games since 1996, when they beat the Nets twice in Tokyo at 1-1 ATS.

 

Lithuania Calling
The SRS numbers also don't take into account how short-handed the Raptors have been this season. Jonas Valanciunas (20.7 PER, +0.5 BPM) missed 17 games with a broken thumb; Toronto is 6-3 SU and 5-4 ATS since his return. However, offseason acquisition DeMarre Carroll (11.6 PER, 0.0 BPM) is out indefinitely after having his knee scoped. Good thing Terrance Ross (11.4 PER, –0.5 BPM) has gotten his career back on track over the past several weeks. He and Johnson can soak up those minutes at small forward for now.

Meanwhile, the Magic have fallen off the wagon at 2-5 SU and 1-6 ATS in their last seven games. They should have Elfrid Payton (14.4 PER, –1.1 BPM) back in action after missing four games with a bruised left ankle, but Aaron Gordon (17.1 PER, +2.0 BPM) might have to sit this one out after spraining his right ankle during Wednesday's practice. That's kind of important – and enough reason to side with the Raptors on Thursday, what what, cheerio.