Toronto Raptors: Previewing key matchups in shortest month of the year

(Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
(Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Feb. 26- Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors

Key Matchup: Guards vs. Kyrie Irving

If the Raptors have any hope of evening up the head-to-head tiebreaker with one of their largest Eastern Conference foes, a Feb. 26th matchup is their final chance.

The Boston Celtics, after a sluggish start, have begun to find their footing behind the lead of their star guard, Kyrie Irving.

In the month of January, Irving had his best scoring month of the year, tallying 25.7 points per game. The scoring came on a single month season-high 63.7 true shooting percentage.

Along with his scoring output, Irving also provided the team with a distributing force, averaging a season-high in assists as well (8.1).

The sight is all too familiar for the Raptors.

In their previous three matchups this year, Irving has posted 30.3 points per game including a 43-point outburst in their mid-November bout.

The task of shutting down Irving will fall between the various guards of the Raptors, with Green and Lowry likely getting the first shot.

On the year, both of the Raptors starting backcourt mates have accumulated 1.7 defensive win shares, both top-five marks on the roster. As a team, the Raptors have posted the 10th-best defensive rating (107.5) in the league, descending from their top-five tally for much of the early portion of the year.

Much of their woes have come with Jonas Valanciunas out, leaving a hole down low for the team’s interior defense. With Irving relying heavily on his driving ability, the guards will be relied upon to pick up the slack, limiting Irving’s opportunities to garner a head of steam.

Even if Valanciunas makes it back for their fourth and final matchup, the Raptors will have their hands full with the former Duke Blue Devil.