The Toronto Raptors, having punted an opportunity to increase their Atlantic Division lead against a sub-.500 team, are in Beantown facing another one. The Celtics were expected to struggle, and they have. The roster is headlined by brilliant point guard Rajon Rondo, who may not want to endure a rebuild, and can bolt after next season. Should he do so (or get traded), fans of this historic franchise hoping for a quick rebuild by GM Danny Ainge are likely to be disappointed.
Several of the other starters aren’t terrible, but are undersized and have little growth potential, to my eyes. If I were coaching this team, I’d start the kids. Kelly Olynyk, out of Newmarket, ON and Gonzaga U., should be learning his craft on the floor, not the bench. He’s tall, mobile and smart. Jared Sullinger, a beefy rebounder, should be pencilled in rather than Kris Humphries. Brandon Bass, the starting power forward, is a known quantity. He’ll grab some boards, score some points…yawn. Give Chris Johnson a chance.
It’s not all bad. Avery Bradley is making significant strides as a scorer on the wing, and I’ve always liked Jeff Green. He’s the kind of inside-outside scorer who’s tough to defend.
The Raps need to get in gear quickly tonight. They can win this game handily if they:
- get Jonas Valanciunas involved early. Our big man can turn and shoot over The Hump, or back him down.
- protect the ball. Rondo is one of the league’s premier ball hawks. If Terrence Ross makes a lazy pass which Rondo intercepts, he should be benched. We’ve seen more than enough of those.
- stay within arm’s length of Jeff Green. Barring another unlikely, crazy performance by Sullinger, Green is the most likely Celtic to go off for a big number.
The Raptors have lost the last 11 games they have played at Boston’s TD Garden, and it’s time to end this negative streak. They will, by a 99-90 score.