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Orlando Magic

Canadian Khem Birch excited to make his playoff debut against the Toronto Raptors

The Orlando Magic clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2012 with a 122-114 win on Wednesday over the Charlotte Hornets.

For Canadian Khem Birch it will be the first time he'll play in the post-season. After the game, sitting in his locker room the feeling started to sink in, he told his teammates "Toronto, that's crazy."

Last year Birch went to Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series between the Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers. He saw his home country's lone team take a tough 18-point loss after LeBron James exploded for a series-high 43 points, 14 assists, eight rebounds.

Sitting in the crowd that day he could've never imagined he'd be playing on that same floor a year later. His wife will be in the crowd and his three-month-old baby will see him play for the first time. The playoffs are always great - for Birch this will be special.

"It's going to be amazing, especially in my home country…Canada. I'm going to be kind of amped up," Birch told NBA.com.

"It's funny because last year I watched the playoff game in Toronto - Game two against Cleveland. Now I'm in the playoff against them so it's kind of surreal actually."

Much like Toronto, the Magic have had to deal with injuries all season long. In the final game of the regular season - the most important game of the season, they were without two of their starters Nikola Vucevic and Jonathan Isaac. Their promising rookie Mo Bamba has been out since February with a left tibia fracture.

Through it all the Magic held their ground finishing the second half of the season with a 22-9 record. Birch has stepped up in the absences of some of his fellow bigs averaging 6.3 points, 4.7 rebounds in his last 29 games.

The averages don't wow you away, but his presence as a rim protector has turned the Magic into one of the stingiest defences in the league post-all-star break. He came into Wednesday's game with a field goal defended at the rim percentage of 51% which is amongst the best in the league.

Since the All-Star break, Orlando has a 107.0 defensive rating and a league-best 77.6% defensive rebounding percentage limiting teams to just 10.8 second-chance points - when you play Orlando, it's one and done.

"In this league, there's no excuses," Birch continued. "There's guys who are trying to come compete and take your job every day. So, you got to come with it regardless of if you're playing or not."

The hard part for Birch and the Magic is just beginning. They now look ahead to try and upset the Raptors - a team with their sights set on a run to The Finals. Orlando is going into it as massive underdogs, the team is aware, the fanbase is aware, but they're optimistic.

That aside Birch not only has to worry about his first-round opponents but he also has to take care of his family members who texted him ticket requests before he even got back to the locker room to check his phone. The pressure is on, but he's excited to play on a show.

"My mom just said eight tickets right now," Birch said pointing to his phone with a smile. "I know other people are going to ask me, but we'll see.

"My whole family is going to be watching, people I went to high school with, elementary school with - everyone is going to be watching.

"So hopefully I just play good."

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