The Toronto Raptors play their second of four meetings with the storied Celtics, whose story isn’t very appealing at the moment. A team which unburdened itself of legends Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett was expected to have an off-year, but started well enough. However, they have dropped their last 9 games. The Raps have won 3 straight, and would enjoy keeping both teams’ streaks alive.
The Celtics’ most important player, injury-plagued point guard Rajon Rondo, is not expected to make his season debut until the weekend, so the Raps don’t need to deal with his speed, steals and clever passing. The Raps will need to concentrate on Jeff Green, their smart, mobile power forward. His shooting range extends past the 3-point arc, so the coverage will need to be tight. Think Patrick Patterson with more experience. Avery Bradley will bother Kyle Lowry all game, and can also hit from distance. Jared Sullinger is Boston’s best rebounder. Brandon Bass is a journeyman small forward, and wouldn’t be a starter on a better team than this.
The Celtics bench is most unimpressive. Canadian rookie centre Kelly Olynyk will be a strong performer for them in years to come; in the meantime, he’s learning the ropes. Ex-Rap Jerryd Bayless has come over from Memphis, and will no doubt fire away if given any space at all.
The Raptors historically have had little success on Boston’s floor. That can change tonight if they:
- get the ball inside to Jonas Valanciunas. After a spate of games against tough centres, JV should have lots of opportunity to use his back-down moves and hook shots. Look for Amir Johnson cutting down the lane.
- pound their second unit. Our former Kings have hurt a lot of other squads already, and should run roughshod over a smallish and slow Boston bench.
- drive and kick to Kyle Lowry or Terrence Ross for open 3-balls. DeMar DeRozan jump-starts the Raps’ offense by dribbling into the paint, then continuing to the hoop or passing to his mates. Because DD so often draws a double team, our outside shooters have the time and space to take optimal shots.
If there ever was a “no excuses” game for the Raps, it’s this one. It’s not a back-to-back, and there’s no Rondo. The Celtics have to be feeling anxious after nine straight defeats, and one win in their last 13 games. The NBA is no place for the merciful. The Raps will push the Celtics further into the tank with a 104-93 victory.