cavsraps
Toronto Raptors Boston Celtics November 21, 2010

Arse has been up since 7am doing laps, push-ups and cursing at the mirror in preparation for the Celtics today. You hate, them, I hate them, everyone hates this team accept people who live in Massachusetts. I actually don’t hate them anymore, I just hate Garnett. Everyone else is a classy player who acts like a man; Garnett is a bully who’s drunk on his championship.

Lots of action the last couple days in Toronto huh? Unavailable for tonight’s game are Jack, Banks and Andersen; hopefully Stojakovic and Bayless available. 77% of you think this was a good trade for the Raptors, and I have to agree. In one swoop, the Raptors got younger, saved some money, and have a big asset that should come into play as the trade deadline gets closer. Gotta give Colangelo some credit, this could have been the best trade he’s made in a while since we will still have Reggies expiring in play as well.

Just a quick recap of some assets as the trade deadline approaches:

Peja Stojakovic – $14.75mil
Reggie Evans – $5mil
TPE – $14mil’ish

That’s a lot of toys to be playing with, and with a lot of broke teams, and teams looking to add a dead-eye(ish) shooters, it’s very possible something good/big can happen by February. The only thing not acceptable for me is buying out Peja’s contract right now. I guarantee you Riley is whispering sweet nothings in BryCo’s ear to try to make that happen.

We have a game to get too…Raptors host the Celtics today. I had a chance to speak with Brendan Jakcson from Celtics Hub, and he had some really good things to say about this team:

He’s the man on the one of the three best teams in the league; at what point does the list of best point guards begin with Rondo and not Paul, Williams, Westbrook or Rose?
Many people believe that Rajon Rondo will not fully ascend to the upper echelon of premir point guards until he develops a consistent jump shot. I disagree. Friday marked the first time this season Rondo failed to record double digit assists (finishing the game with 7) and he say out for much of the fourth quarter with a hamstring issue. Ranking the league’s best point guards is usually problematic on the outset because no one really agrees on the criteria. Should they be the best passer? Best basketball player? Best decision-maker? Should they be better offensively? Should they be better defensively? At this point, if Rondo is not ebing mentioned within that group of aforementioned points, than the person doing the talking has not been paying much attention.

Are the Celtics more worried about the Heat or the Magic?
First and foremost, the Celtics are most worried about themselves. If healthy and focused, the Celtics feel they can beat any team on any night. However, those are two huge “ifs”. So far this season, the Celtics have handily beaten the Heat twice. At this point the Celtics cannot really say they are worried about the Heat. As for the Magic, the Celtics have yet to play the new-look Magic (Quentin Richardson has replaced Matt Barnes and Stan Van Gundy is actually playing Brandon Bass) but even the Magic do not stroke fear in the hearts of the Celtics. Kendrick Perkins is probably the best at defending Dwight Howard one on one which gives the Cs so much more leeway on the defensive end. Less cheating/helping begets better close-outs on shooters. Despite handily beating the Magic in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics have yet to play them this year. The easy answer is the fear of the unknown.

The Celtics lost a couple key guys (Tony Allen for one), added another couple (West and Wafer) and added two O’Neal’s who might be limping into the playoffs. Were these moves enough to even get out of the East, much less beat the Lakers?
The Celtics came out of the East last year with a far less complete team. As for the Lakers, the Celtics lacked the necessary size and length in the middle to compete with Los Angeles on the glass. The additions of Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal will likely change that. The Celtics may still lose the battle of the boards but now they are more well-equipped to battle other players for rebounds.
Delonte West may end up being the most underrated move of any team this offseason. I do not blame teams for taking a pass on West but also totally understand why the Celtics did not. The Celtics’ bench lacked a necessary glue-guy last year as evident by how much burn Ray Allen got with the bench warmers. West changes that. He can play the one, two, or even the three if the Celtics go small.
Losing Tony Allen was a definite blow for the Celtics wing defense off the bench. Luckily for the Cs, Marquis Daniels appears to be hitting his stride (well, hitting it enough, anyway) to be a serviceable replacement for TA. Daniels is not a “lock-down” guy like Allen was for the Cs, but he’s still capable of spelling Pierce when necessary.

Speaking of Lakers, if the Celtics don’t win it all this season, how much sleep does Danny Ainge lose before breaking things up?
Danny Ainge actually did a brilliant thing last offseason by only singing players for two years. This way, whether or not the Celtics win this year they are poised to either go into battle with largely the same team intact or use the plethora of expiring contracts as trade bait. Win or lose, Ainge has options and with options a man can sleep easy.

What will the Raptors have to do to beat the Celtics tonight?
Catch them on an off night? No, but in all seriousness, the Celtics biggest weakness is athleticism. If Toronto can use their athletics wings (Sonny Weems, DeMarr DeRozan) to out run and jump the Cs, than it could be a long night for the men in green. Andrea Bargnani should also try to draw Kevin Garnett out of the paint for as long as possible to clear driving lanes for the Raptor’s more athletics players. If Garnett sags down to help, Bargnani can make him pay by hitting open jumper after open jumper.

Injuries

Toronto
Ed Davis – Out
Leandro Barbosa – Shoulder, Should Play
Linas Kleiza – Achilles, Should Play

Boston
Rajon Rondo – Hamstring, Game time decision
Kevin Garnett – Elbow to the head (LOL), Game time decision
Jermaine O’Neal – Knee, Out
Kendrick Perkins – Out

Match-ups

PG – Calderon vs Rondo
His first case as the undisputed leader of this team, and he gets Rondo; it’s almost funny actually. If you haven’t been paying attenion, Rondo is the best point guard in the league right now, averaging 11.2pts 14.3ast 4.8reb 2.5blk in about 40min. Jose isn’t. To make matters worse for Calderon, Rondo’s defense is probably better than his offense. On offense, Rondo likes the paint/elbows. Jose can expect to be attacked a lot off the dribble.

Rajon Rondo Shot Chart

Rondo also gets a chance to welcome Jerryd to the Raptors, should be fun.
Edge: Rondo

SG – DeRozan vs Allen
DeMar has played very well the last week or so, and seems to have taken things up a notch in his game. This afternoon against Allen, he will have to leverage more than his athleticism to be effective. He’s going to have to take notes and do what Allen does. It will be fun to watch him chase Ray-Ray around, but he needs to return that favour in kind on offense.

Ray Allen Shot Chart

Repeat after me: Don’t. Leave. Allen. On. The. Perimeter. For. Any. Reason. He will stick ‘em from the perimeter, and can finish at the rim. Good luck.
Edge: Allen

SF – Weems vs Pierce
I get that feeling that Weems athleticism wont be helping him as much as usual. Unlike Ray Allen who is able to run around, Pierce doesn’t, and for some reason, he seemingly doesn’t need too. To have any success, Weems will need to get out and make him run in transition. Run up the court, run around screens, run into the corner, fake rolling and pop out…just keep running. If Pierce is tired enough, he wont punish you on offense with that slow first step that has raped and pillaged defenses across the league.

Paul Pierce Shot Chart

Pierce likes to play in the paint, but his perimeter game needs to be respected. I feel like I should be putting more here, but I’m super tired.
Edge: Pierce

PF – Evans vs Garnett
I suspect there will be a switcharoo on defense were Shaq covers Evans and Garnett jumps out on Bargnani, but whatever. The only thing I’m hoping for today is when KG starts jawing at Calderon, Evans grabs him by the nuts and head butts him. That would make me very happy.

Kevin Garnett Shot Chart

Edge: Garnett

C – Bargnani vs Shaq
The only match-up where the Raptors have an advantage, and I suspect that it will be mitigated with Doc switching Garnett to Bargnani for defensive purposes. Shaq has zero chance of keeping up with Andrea on the perimeter, we all know that. It’s not a secret weapon or anything. Garnett though…he can do it. Bargnani should be able to hang with Shaq defensively, but there will be moments where Shaq gets good position and puts it down. The one area where the Raptors have an advantage, and it’s an easy fix to get around it. Sucks is all…

Shaquille O'Neal Shot Chart

Edge: Bargnani

Keys to the Game

Rebounding
The Celtics are the 2nd worse rebounding team in the league. Even though they a size advantage against almost every team, they can’t grab a rebound; which really baffles me. Regardless, the Raps need to get out in transition and get the Celtics running back on their heels, as well as keeping possessions going with an offensive rebound. The only way to do that is to have the ball, which means grabbing rebounds. Make sense?

Be Athletic?
I guess you are either or you aren’t. The Raptors are, the Celtics aren’t. The Raptors need to get the geriatrics running up and down the court pleading for the Bengay. The Raptors have to get them tripping over their knee braces and such to have a chance.

Hit your shots
This is more a plea than a strategy, but the Raptors have an advantage in this area, and they need to use it to enhance the other aspects of their game. If this boils down to a slow-paced halfcourt game, it’s over. But if speeds up and gets into an up-and-down match, the Raptors will give themselves a chance. That’s all we’re asking for, a chance.

The Line

The gamblers have the Celtics as 5.5 point favourites, which isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The Raptors just lost one of their most important players in a trade, and with the roster shaken up a bit, it could provide the fire to get after it a bit more than they have been to start the season.