Toronto Raptors Boston Celtics January 7, 2011

What I tell you about the Cavs game? Something didn’t seem right about the line, and although they gave it a go in the first quarter, the Raptors were able to storm back, win the 2nd quarter, then take the game. Wont be so easy tonight against Boston. Seems like we play the Celtics once a week or so doesn’t it? Fortunately this is the last match-up until next season.

The Celtics are coming off a huge win against the Spurs, where they went small ball and put the Spurs in their place. Small ball is actually an option that makes me nervous for tonight’s game since it nullifies Bargnani’s ability to put the ball on the floor and take his man off the dribble. Sure he will shoot over anyone from 18 feet out, but he doesn’t post-up enough when he has a defender on his hip enough  to punish the other team.

I checked in with Ryan DeGama from CelticsHub about the Celtics and the game tonight:

With so many injuries to start the season, and currently sitting 1st in the East, you guys must be feeling good heading into the second half of the season. Will anything less than a championship be a disaster this season?
Disaster’s a big word but if the Celtics drop another Finals to the Lakers, then it might be the right one. It would be disaster-level painful for most Celtics fans, who still aren’t really over the second half collapse in game seven of last year’s Finals.

The bottom line is this team was built to win championships and this might be the best team that Danny Ainge has put together for Doc Rivers, so expectations are sky-high. The fact the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce-Ray Allen core won one championship means they’ll be looked on favorably by history, however, a second would cement their legacies in Boston, where winning one title is only sorta, kinda impressive.

Who do you not want to play in the Eastern playoffs, and if you get there, the Finals?
Eastern Conference: Probably Miami. Also Chicago. And Orlando. The problem with this year is that to just get to The Finals, the C’s will have to go through at least two of those teams. Miami may be a year of frontcourt reinforcements away from being able to topple Boston, and Orlando may not have a true second star behind Howard, so, counter-intuitively perhaps, I’ll nominate Chicago. Rose is a matchup nightmare, and they’ve got an athletic frontline that can give Boston problems. If the Bulls can upgrade their 2-guard, they’re going to be a handful.

The Finals: The Celtics would probably be best served playing the Spurs but even though it’s a tougher matchup, I think everybody wants the Lakers (see also: revenge).

Rondo’s improved every year he’s played in the league, but to average 14 assists a game is very impressive. It seems to have come at the expense of his offense, but his improved shooting efficiency has made up for it some. What can you attribute to the big jump in playmaking for him this season?
To quibble, scoring numbers aside, I think his offense is actually a level beyond where it was last year. He has a newfound consistency of effort and result from game-to-game and he’s shooting a career high 44% from the mid-range.

His assist numbers are up for a number of reasons including: his natural peak-years evolution as playmaker, because Shaq has replaced Perkins in the starting lineup, and also because Allen and Pierce remain lethal shotmakers.

Perkins is a free agent after this year. What do you think he’s worth on the open market, and will be a Celtic come next season?
That first question may be above my pay grade, particularly with us all unsure of what the new CBA is going to look like, but as a blind guess, how about $8M per? Ainge has been reluctant to sign any player beyond 2012 except Pierce and Rondo but I think he’ll re-up Perkins to a multi-year deal after the season – lest he undercut the C’s chances for a 2012 run at the title.

Assuming there is a 2012.

(You can take that as a reference to either a potential lockout or the Mayan doomsday prophecy).

What’s going to be the plan heading into the game tonight against the Raptors?
Nothing you haven’t seen. Doesn’t it seem like these two teams are always playing each other in clusters? Over at CelticsHub, Hayes Davenport refers to it as Raptors Week.

As usual, the Celtics will test the Raptors willingness to play defense on multiple offensive options for 24-full-seconds and try to keep your athletes from crashing the offensive glass and getting to the rim.

Injuries

Toronto
Reggie Evans – Out
Peja Stojakovich – Out
Sonny Weems – Day to day
Jerryd Bayless – Day to day
Jose Calderon – Hurting but should play

Boston
Kendrick Perkins – Out
Kevin Garnett – Out
Delonte West – Out

Match-ups

Point Guard
Rondo’s back, and he’s playing like a champ again. Wednesday against the Spurs he dropped a magnificent 12pts 10rebs 22ast 6stl 1blk gem. Can he do it tonight against the Raptors? Yes. Will he? Probably. My preference is to take away his options and force him to hit some shots, but he’s been hitting those at a 53% rate…so yea…

Jose can regain some lost ground with another monster game, but Rondo is no Mo Williams or Ramon Sessions, and plays great defense. 20pts 17ast may not be possible, but something like 17pts 10ast will help fight the good fight.
Edge: Boston

Shooting Guard
I keep saying it and saying it, and nothing, but DeMar needs to study Ray Allen and follow his lead. Sure DeMar is super athletic, but so are most shooting guards in the league; degrees of athleticism isn’t really an advantage. Regardless, DeRozan’s been on a bit of a tear of late, with a bad game for him being 13pts 3rebs 2ast…I’ll take that. Tonight will be more of the same with Ray Allen inflicting a great deal of pain on the Raptors. Barbosa wont fair any better.
Edge: Boston

Small Forward
The Truth, nuff said. Would be nice to get Julian Wrights defense on him, but it wont help.
Edge: Boston

Power Forward
As much as I loathe Glen Davis, the guy is having a great season. Against the Raptors, he’s averaging 15pts 6rebs 4ast which makes my blood boil to no end (death by 1000 cuts). With Garnett out, there’s very depth at the 4, which is where the Raptors can make up some lost ground in the match-ups. Both Amir and Ed are playing very well lately, and will give Davis a run for his money on the glass.

What has me concerned is that Doc Rivers going small ball, which will see Marquis Daniels switch to the 4 and Davis to the 5. This could pose a lot of problems for the Raptors as Daniels plays about 15ft in, pulling Amir/Ed out of the paint making help defense and rebounding that much tougher. On the offensive glass, Daniels will do zero to counter Johnson/Davis though, so there is a silver lining with this strategy.

At the end of the day, any advantage the Raptors may have here will be far outweighed by the Celtics advantage at the wing. To close, here’s Glen Davis doing the dougie:

Edge: Toronto

Center
Shaq can’t cover  Bargnani for long stretches on defense, so we will see some interesting lineups thrown at the Raptors. Bargnani will have to deal with a combination of Shaq, Jermaine O’Neal and Glen Davis, each bringing a different challenge for him to deal with. If/when the Celtics go small ball, Bargnani will struggle with defending Davis on the perimeter and his bull-doggedness when he gets into the paint with his interesting post-play (always has these moves where I full expect him to flop to the ground and airball the layup, but it works). Unlike the power forward advantage the Raptors enjoy, if Bargnani puts up a 30+ point night, he might be able to keep things very interesting for much of the game.
Edge: Toronto

The Line

The gamblers have the Celtics as 9.5 point favourites with an over/under of 200.5. Unlike the Cavaliers game, the Raptors can’t spot the Celtics a 32-19 lead in the 1st quarter and expect to take the game. With the game in Boston, the Raptors will need to hit the ground running from the get-go and do all the little things to have a chance.

We’ve got Twitter, Facebook and Live Chat. If you’re in the city and want to catch the game with other Raptor fans, head over to Sports Center Cafe at Yonge/St. Clair for Raptor Fan Fridays.

One love

  • Nilanka15

    BAHAHAHAHAHAHAH! Gayest pic ever!!!

    (Not that there’s anything wrong with that)

  • Nilanka15

    I would really love to see Wright play 30+ minutes guarding Pierce tonight. Although the refs will be doing everything in their power to make sure Pierce gets to the line 15+ times, Wright’s our only option for slowing Pierce down. Kleiza seemed lost in his last attempt at doing the same.

    • tom

      I like Triano, but if Wright plays only 7 min again tonight then I won’t like Triano any more.

      • Lucas Lopes

        I don´t like Triano, and if Wright plays only 7 min again then I will absolutely hate Triano.

    • Dn

      How about we clone Wright and put one copy on Pierce, Rondo and Alen, each.

    • Buddahfan

      Wright’s minutes as always will be dictated by how the Raptors starters play and whether or not they are in foul trouble.

      In addition his minutes will be determined by how he plays

      That is the correct way to handle the situation.

  • albertan_10

    Any word on if Weems is playing?

    • Nilanka15

      Not sure if he made the trip. Probably out until at least Sunday vs. Sactown.

    • Sam Holako

      Doesn’t look like either Weems or Bayless will be playing

      • http://twitter.com/Liston Tom Liston

        More importantly Sam, it that a Von Dutch hat you’re wearing in that picture?
        If so, HOW did it get past our SPAM filter?

        • Sam Holako

          It is a Von Dutch hat, and the pic was from a few years ago. I think it pulled it from my old gravatar account, and I never bothered to change it.

  • Timo in Waterloo

    I would like to see Joey Dorsey get some minutes tonight and layout Baby, just like Dwight did in the playoffs last year… and the Raptors better not EVER wear green jerseys again, i dont care if it is St. Patrick’s day.. this team should NEVER wear green…

    • JTP

      Open Letter To Bloggers, Contributors and Fans of Rap Republic;
      It is with great consternation with which I write this post. As an avid lurker I found that over the recent months that this site has degenerated into an “I love” or “I hate Barghnani” site. I think that this reflects badly on the site and overshadows the real debate that should be taking place which is are the Raps improving and what moves should we, as fans, be encouraging/discouraging this franchise to make.
      Let’s be real for a second, make no mistake the current Raptors are not a good team. Offensively, they are streaky and defensively they are poor.
      But before we can get to this debate we need to resolve some issues forthwith. Let’s start with a few assumptions: We as raptors fans want to win not just a few games, but the championship.
      There are only a few players on this roster that we truly know “who” they are”.
      1. Jose Calderon: An above average point guard with an above average salary. Strengths are: great distributor, low turnover rate, good jump shot, great attitude, enjoys playing for Toronto. Weakness: Below average defender. We can expect 12 pts and 7 asts per game.

      2. Andrea Barghnani: An exceptional offensive big man with a reasonable salary. Strengths: can score in a number of ways, not highly injury prone, likes playing for Toronto. Weakness: very poor rebounder, average man-on-man defender, poor help defender. We can expect 21 pts 5 rebs per game. Note, our GM does not think that Brags is good enough to be the face of the franchise that is why we have the young onez marketing campaign. We also know that the organization is aware of his defensive inefficiencies hence this salary.

      3. Leonardo Barbosa: A combo guard with an average salary. Strengths: Speed, good ability to get to the rim, average defender. Weakness: Streaky. We can expect 13 pts 2 asts per game.

      4. Reggie Evans: An excellent rebounder with an above average salary. Strengths: Rebounder and heart. Weakness: Average defender with no offensive game.

      5. Peja: A pure shooter with a large but expiring salary. Strengths: Great shooter at 3pt. Weakness: Poor defender.

      All other players are pretty much a work in progress with many questions around their upside. Many are not close to their potential ceiling. Amir Johnson is probably the player closest to being cemented as a player we know. What do we know about Amir? He is a good defender but is prone to committing too many fouls. What we are unsure about is whether Amir can continue to improve his offensive game to become a 15 pts and 8 rebs per game player.
      So let’s make 2 conclusions based on what we have seen so far this year which is that the 3 best starters on the team is Calderon, Brags and Amir and based on their numbers they are starters on this team whether we think they should or not.
      So what do these 3 players give us as starters? We have some offense but not much defense agree? So who can we put with these players that will improve our defense without hurting our offense.
      Barbosa and Bayless are the only other players on our roster that have good offensive upside without the defensive downside of other players on our roster. Both players can get us 10 pts, can distribute and can play defense. Here is the problem with this starting five is that we are not very big and that is why Kleiza starts at the 3. However, his offense is streaky but his defense is not above average (he is too slow) but we need strong 3 position defense to help compensate for our poor perimeter and help defense. That is why many have called for Julian Wright starting because he can guard the 1, 2, 3. We all know that Barbosa does not start at the 2, it is DeRozen that starts at the 2. This forces the coach’s hand to start Kleiza for his offense and size. However, if DeRozen continues to pick up his offensive game then it becomes more plausible to start Wright because we will be less reliant on Kleiza’s offence.
      So here is the question the Raptors Brass often asks themselves. At the end of the day is it better to start Barbosa and Kleiza and win a few more games or DeRozen and Kleiza and see if they can remain competitive and allow DeRozen develop. I think we can all agree the latter is the approach with the better long-term upside.
      The bigger question for the Raptors Brass is do we need a true defensive big man? The answer is “YES” how do I know this? Think back at last summer and the Charlotte deal and Tyson Chandler. So who was the best back-up on our roster for that failed deal? Reggie Evans. You can almost see that Reggie Evans is the experiment to see if Colangelo’s idea for Tyson Chandler would work and I think we can agree with Evans and Barghani on the floor the Raptors played well defensively.
      So based on that piece of information we know that there is consensus that the raptors need the following:
      1. Big man that is quick and can defend the 4 and 5 spots and can rebound the ball at a rate at 10-12 per game and provide 10 pts.
      2. Can DeRozen be the 2 that can give us 20 pts per night and play average defense? [This is a question that no one on this blog or anywhere else knows for sure]
      3. Can Julian Wright or Sonny Weems develop to be a competent 3 that can provide total offensive (15 pts) and defensive productivity that can out-pace Kleiza?
      Once the Raptors organization determines the answer to the 3 questions above then the quest begins. I think it will take the remainder to this year to have a big enough sample to draw a reasonable conclusion to Q2 and Q1. So I would not expect much from the trade deadline other than the quest to find an answer to Q1.

      If you look at the team now versus what it should be you can see Colangelo’s plan. It’s easy — he wants to find a big man, determine if Kleiza and DoRozen can develop into the players. Finally, our bench is pretty much set. So the question is who should we go after as the big man? If Kleiza and DeRozen don’t work out them who should we go after?
      Starters:
      Big Man 12 Pts 12 Rb
      Reggie Evans 4 Pts 12 Rb (NO)
      SF 23 Pts 6 Rb .400 3Pts
      Andea B. 21 Pts 6 Rb .360 3Pts (YES)
      SF 15 Pts 5 Rb 3 Ast .450 3 Pts
      Kleiza 12 Pts 5 Rb 1 Ast .298 3 Pts (MAYBE)
      SG 20 Pts 3 Ast .350 3 Pts
      DeRozen 14 Pts 2 Ast .100 3 Pts (MAYBE)
      PG 12 Pts 8 Ast .450 3 Pts
      Calderon 10 Pts 8 Ast .450 3 Pts (YES)

      Bench:
      Big (Johnson) 10 Pts Rb 7
      Big (Ed Davis) 5 Pts Rb 5
      PG (Bayless) 10 Pts Ast 5
      SF (Wright) 4 Pts 2 Ast
      SG (No Body) 9 Pts .480 3 Pts