The Toronto Raptors are on the verge of winning their third-consecutive Atlantic Division title.
While a division championship might seem minor to the defending NBA champs, winning the division is still a key component to a title run as 2011 was the last season that the league's champion did not win their respective division.
Entering Wednesday, the Raptors have a "magic number" of two games in order to clinch the division title and a top-two finish in the East over the Boston Celtics.
|Team||W||L||Win %||Games Back||Seeding Games Left|
|2. Toronto Raptors||48||18||.727||-||6|
|3. Boston Celtics||44||23||.657||4.0||5|
|6. Philadelphia 76ers||40||27||.597||8.5||6|
|7. Brooklyn Nets||32||35||.478||16.5||5|
For Toronto to end the day as division champs, here's what needs to happen:
First, the Raptors must earn a win over the Orlando Magic, who they face at 8 p.m. on Sportsnet ONE. Toronto has won each of its first three meetings with Orlando this season, and per FiveThirtyEight's NBA Predictions Model, has a 76% chance of winning Wednesday night.
THREE QUESTIONS: Can Raps keep the momentum rolling against Magic?
Second, the Brooklyn Nets must defeat the Celtics as they tip-off shortly after 9 p.m.
It might be a tall task for Brooklyn, as FiveThirtyEight gives Boston a 92% chance of winning. It's worth noting that it is the second end of a back-to-back for both teams; the Celtics look to bounce back from a tough loss to the Miami Heat while the Nets are riding the momentum of an upset win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Don't count Brooklyn out.
MORE: What's at stake in Wednesday's games?
If the Raptors are unable to clinch the Atlantic Division crown on Wednesday, they will have another opportunity to do so on Friday as they take on the Celtics for the fourth and final time this season.
On Friday, it's pretty simple: A Raptors win clinches the division.
Why this matters:
A division championship serves as a secondary tiebreaker for teams that finish with identical records and split the regular-season series.
In owning the tiebreaker, the Raptors would also clinch a finish no lower than second place, as the Celtics are the only team that can catch them in the standings in the remaining seeding games.
Home court advantage might not be a factor in later rounds but with respect to the opening round, there is a significant difference between finishing second and third.
A second-place finish would mean a first-round date with either the Magic, who the Raptors have beaten three times this season or a depleted Nets team while the East's third seed will likely face a sneaky opponent in either the Philadelphia 76ers or Indiana Pacers.
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