After a wholly entertaining win against the Cavs on Sunday, the Toronto Raptors’ (25-39) push to make sure Oklahoma City picks 14th in the draft continue tonight against their division rival Boston Celtics (34-29). These two teams have met twice this season already, with the Celtics taking the first two meetings – the first one being a blowout, and the second being a classic Raptors 4th-quarter collapse in early February. The “Big 3″ era Celtics have had the Raptors’ number, going 15-4 against them in games dating back to the 2007-2008 season, and the TD Garden has never been a fun place to play, so expect to see some serious grit from the boys in red, or a blowout. This isn’t the Cavs at home, folks.
Rudy Gay and Andrea Bargnani will both apparently be game-time decisions, according to Mike Ganter, and if they’re both out, expect to see our rookies starting for the second consecutive game. Getting starts in Boston against a hostile crowd can often be a trial by fire, but it may be a blessing in disguise for Terrence Ross in particular, as this might be one of the best ways to instill a bit of urgency in what is essentially a meaningless game for the Raps. Any pressure situations should help development in the long run, and really, that’s what we should be paying attention for at this point anyway. Paul Pierce missed Tuesday night’s game and might be out tonight as well, which could limit the firepower advantage on the wings somewhat.
So tune in, watch Jonas and KG go head-to-head to see who the hardest working big in the NBA is, see if Amir responds to the inevitable trash talk, and to see what T-Ross can do when he doesn’t get just 5 minutes of PT against the Celtics. To the tale of the tape!
Tale of the Tape
O-Rating: Toronto 106.6 (11th), Celtics 103.2 (24th)
D-Rating: Toronto 107.8 (22nd), Celtics 102.9 (6th)
Pace: Toronto 93.0 (24th), Celtics 93.7 (19th)
Strength: Toronto ball control (3rd), Celtics forcing poor shots (5th in opp FG%)
Weakness: Toronto hacking (30th in team fouls), Celtics offensive rebounding (28th)
Point Guards: Kyle Lowry, John Lucas, and Sebastian Telfair v. Avery Bradley and Jason Terry
Avery Bradley is a fantastic defensive player and should give Lowry all he can handle on that end, but KLOE is clearly the more dynamic offensive player and should (emphasis on should) be able to handle Bradley’s limited offensive game. Lucas/Telfair against Terry is more or less a wash at this point in their respective careers, which is about as shocking to read back as it was to write it.
Wings: Rudy Gay(?), DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields, Alan Anderson and Terrence Ross v. Paul Pierce(?), Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, Jordan Crawford, and Terrence Williams
With both teams’ top wing scorers likely to be game-time decisions, this matchup can obviously swing one way or the other depending on who’s playing, but both teams seem fairly limited in terms of offensive firepower here. The Celtics are very good at defending the 3 (3rd in the league in opp 3 point percentage), so it’ll be on the Raptor wings to not settle for long 2s/3s as they often do and attack the lane. Easier said than done with this bunch, unfortunately.
Bigs: Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, Andrea Bargnani(?), and Aaron Gray v. Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, and Chris Wilcox
Kevin Garnett gets the advantage for the C’s here by virtue of being the only All-Star calibre player on either team (assuming no Gay/Pierce in the lineups). Expect to see Jeff Green spend some time at power forward as well, which might mean we see a small-ball Raptors lineup, with Fields and Anderson the likely beneficiaries of extra PT.
Vegas doesn’t have a line up with all the injuries/game-time decisions, and it makes it tough to make my own prediction here as well, of course. If both teams were at full strength, I’d say Celtics by 5, so let’s go with that.