The banged-up Raps visit Beantown for an afternoon tilt with the storied Celtics. The men in green are off to a 5-4 start, which isn’t world-beating but hardly a sky-is-falling disaster like the Lakers’ 3-5. The Celtics dropped their first 2 games, then won 5 of 6 before losing in Brooklyn on Thursday. Rajan Rondo, their cat-quick Point Guard, is hampered by an ankle injury (sound familiar?), didn’t play against the Nets & is questionable tonight. While the Celtics will miss Rondo, a superb distributor & defender, they’re not exactly bereft of talent. Kevin Garnett has been a force in the NBA for 17 battle-scarred seasons. He’s wiry, yet very strong, & one of the smartest players ever. Combine his ability to score from inside & out with a mean streak the size of Texas, & you’ve got a Power Forward for the ages. Paul (The Truth) Pierce is easily the best awkward player I’ve ever seen, & has been filling it up for Boston for over a decade. Ray Allen took his 3-point stroke to Miami, but the Celtics have backfilled nicely with Jason (Jet) Terry & Jeff Green. The Brazilian Blur, Leandro Barbosa, a Rap last season, started against Brooklyn; he’s a solid pickup for Boston, as is Brandon Bass. You’ll even find draft bust extraordinaire Darko Milicic wearing green this season.
The Raps at least should be well-rested, having not played since Wednesday. We’re short-handed, particularly in the backcourt, but Jose Calderon has to be the best second-string PG in the NBA, so we’ve still got a puncher’s chance. I like our front line against Boston, since Garnett can’t play the entire game (he’s 36!), & their other bigs aren’t scary. I hope we’ll see Jonas Valanciunas play 24+ minutes; if he does, look for a double-double from the rookie Centre. He’ll need wax in his ears to drown out Garnett’s trash talking. Andrea Bargnani should be able to thrive, as I don’t believe they can cover him out to the 3-point arc. If he hits a few long balls, we’ll start to look very good. Amir Johnson has earned his minutes with one gritty performance after another. I can see him getting in Garnett’s grille. DeMar should be able to give Boston fits by attacking the basket.
Without Rondo, Boston’s offence will struggle mightily. Is Raptor depth going to be enough against Boston’s stars? Sure, let’s take the Raps for a 91-88 victory.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.