The Toronto Raptors travel to Beantown for a battle with the Celtics Wednesday night. Boston will not be relaxing its guard from now until the playoffs, as they are currently in sixth place, and want nothing to do with the buzzsaw called the Miami Heat until the Eastern Conference finals. Of course, a team led by a warrior like Kevin Garnett plays tough all the time anyway.
The Celtics were expected to take a significant tumble when Rajon Rondo was sidelined with a torn ACL. Somehow his absence has made them better, a turn of events which may have significant roster repercussions for Boston in the off-season. Avery Bradley has stepped into the role of starting point guard with quiet effectiveness. Meanwhile, the Raps have lost twice already to this team, but can grab a victory on the famed parquet floor if they:
- Crank up the tempo. Back when the earth was cooling, and I was starting to love the NBA, the Celtics were the fast-break team. Today, with an aging roster, they thrive on low-scoring, grind-it-out basketball. The Raps will need to run & gun. Grabbing defensive boards and making long outlet passes will trap Boston’s elder statesmen.
- Stay out of foul trouble. That sounds cliché, but it’s essential when playing the Celtics, whose roster is short on scorers. If the Raps’ defense is patient, the Celtics will be forced to take low-percentage shots late in the shot clock. We can’t afford to lose either Jonas Valanciunas or Amir Johnson to fouls, unless you enjoy the sight of pylon at large Aaron Gray.
- Move the ball on offense, and don’t settle for jumpers. The Raps’ half-court offense struggles mightily otherwise. Rudy Gay, our worst ball-stopper since Vince Carter, will dress but may not see action due to back spasms. Terrence Ross is likely to get his second straight start, which is good by me; however, Terrence starts to press if his first few shots are off the mark. Kyle Lowry will need to be mindful of our rookie, and ideally get him an easy bucket early, which hopefully will allow the young man to relax.
The chances of seeing Andrea Bargnani are low, as the elbow on his shooting arm is giving him problems. Is it time to recall Quincy Acy from the D-League and let him loose? I think watching the undersized but scrappy Acy battle Garnett for rebounds would be worth the price of admission by itself.
The Raps’ comeback win over Cleveland was encouraging, and the Celtics are playing their third game in four nights. My prediction: Toronto ends a 9-game losing streak in Boston with a 96-92 victory.
Brian Boake is a co-editor 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.