The Boston Celtics visit the Air Canada Centre hoping to split the season series with the Toronto Raptors by grabbing a win in their fourth and final meeting. The Celtics, although playing out the string, deserve credit for mounting a furious Q4 comeback on Wednesday night which fell just short. Toronto would love to increase the breathing space between themselves and the Brooklyn Nets as the battle for the Atlantic Division title grows ever hotter.
Boston starts the same group as on Wednesday, but one wonders how long they will stay on the floor. Rajon Rondo, their best player by leaps and bounds, sustained a major cut on his nose & forehead when inadvertently elbowed by Greivis Vasquez. He needed help to get off the floor, yet returned to the game after receiving a handful of stitches. How much Rondo can contribute, or whether he should just be sat down, remains to be seen. Jeff Green was hampered by a stiff neck, although coach Brad Stevens says he thinks Green can go full tilt in this game. Jared Sullinger, a certified Raps killer, will no doubt play a bunch.
The Raptors are healthy, apart from Patrick Patterson’s elbow problem and the usual aches and pains endemic to this time of year in the NBA. Toronto will likely be in front of a full house, and the Raps are 21-14 at home. We can expect a tough game, but one the Raps can put in the win column if they:
- get balanced scoring once again. When all 5 Raps starters reach double figures in points, this team can beat anyone. One of the many reasons to cheer for this year’s Raps is their unselfishness. They truly don’t care who scores, as long as the team has one more point than the other guys when the buzzer sounds. Balanced scoring is the ends; moving the ball is the means. Watch how many times all five players touch the ball in a half-court set. If it’s a lot, we’ll win.
- pound that ball inside. When Jonas Valanciunas gets his touches, and successfully backs down his man, the Raps are formidable. JV can certainly contribute offensively against the height-challenged Celtics, but only if he gets the ball.
- are ready to receive a DeMar DeRozan pass out of a double-team. Boston likes to pressure the ball, which I would do too if I had such an accomplished defender as Rondo on my team. Fortunately DD is a smart player who’s clock-aware and happy to dish when he knows his shot will be contested. If Terrence Ross is ready to catch and shoot, I like our chances.
Toronto has a boatload of motivation, a healthy and superior squad, and the home court. There’s no reason to bet against them, and I’m not. Toronto wins 102-88.