After a three day break the Toronto Raptors head to Boston in what is likely a Playoff preview.
Saturday’s contest will mark the first of two meetings between these teams in the next four days. Both Eastern Conference foes hold a victory over each other this year. In their previous meeting it was the Raptors who defeated the Celtics by a score of 111-91.
The Celtics are missing some key players as they continue to deal with injury troubles. All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving recently underwent knee surgery and is out for the foreseeable future. Boston will also be without their defensive anchor Marcus Smart who suffered a tendon tear in his thumb.
Injuries have yet to derail the Celtics in their pursuit of the Eastern Conference’s top seed. Terry Rozier has emerged as a legitimate scoring threat in Boston’s rotation. The 24-year scored a career best 33 points this past Sunday.
Jaylen Brown is also in the midst of a breakout year. The 21-year old is coming off of a 21 point performance against Utah on Wednesday.
Another member of the Celtics to keep an eye on is 2017 third-overall pick Jayson Tatum. The 20-year old has exceeded all expectations this year and looks more like a seasoned veteran than a rookie. Tatum may not be the most talked about rookie however, he has played a large part in the Celtics’ success this year.
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Saturday’s contest will feature a matchup between two veteran big men. Serge Ibaka will likely receive the task of guarding 2018 All-Star, Al Horford. Back in February, Ibaka and company were able to hold Horford to a mere two points. In addition to guarding Horford, Ibaka will be looking to build off of his bounce back performance against the Nuggets.
Toronto’s “bench mob” was a major factor in the team’s recent win over Denver. Jakob Poetl scored 12 points and grabbed 8 rebounds while Fred VanVleet scored 13 points and dished out 4 assists. Pascal Siakam once again showed his play making skills as he recorded 6 assists along with 12 points.
Keys To Victory
- Do not take Boston lightly: The Celtics still pose a threat to Toronto despite their run-in with the injury bug. The Raptors would undoubtedly like to clinch home court advantage throughout the Playoffs. With a showdown with Cleveland on the horizon the Raptors cannot afford to let the Celtics begin to make up any ground this late in the season.
- Close out the game by the third quarter: Toronto should aim to have this one wrapped up by the end of the third quarter. This will be easier said than done but, allowing DeRozan and Lowry to get some rest before their next game would be a victory in itself. Giving the second unit more minutes to close out this contest will also be beneficial.
- Use Time Off To Your Advantage : The Raptors will enter Saturday’s game very well rested. Toronto should come out flying against Boston and set the tone early. Avoid being sluggish and lazy at all costs.
Saturday’s contest will be another tight game between these two teams. However, the Raptors depth will prove to be too much for the Celtics to handle. Expect this game to be fairly close until Toronto eventually pulls away down the stretch.
Final Score: Raptors:116 Celtics: 100
Tip Off: 7:30 PM EST