The Toronto Raptors do not lose three games in a row.
Well, the Raptors, historically, have done so a lot of times. Like, a lot. But these Raptors don’t, having shaken off their last nine two-game losing streaks (including one in the postseason) with a victory. The last time they dropped three straight was in the opening month of last season. It’s been a minute. It’s that look internally, at what they are or are not doing, that’s carrying the day in Toronto rather than any concern that the visiting Boston Celtics could meet them atop the Atlantic Division with a victory.
“We got to get off this losing slide we’re on. I think we lost two in a row we just want to get back to our winning ways,” DeMarre Carroll said at shootaround. “We can’t worry about the standings or all that kind of stuff, we have to get better for the Toronto Raptors.”
Differentiating those two matters would be difficult with a loss. Toronto coughed up winnable games to decent teams on back-to-back nights on the weekend, and the confidence level of the fanbase, at least in our comments, seems to be wavering. Bad stretches happen, and with the fatigue excuse out the window with some extended time at home, it’s time for a good stretch to begin.
The game tips off at 7:30 p.m. on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 590. You can check out the full game preview here, and the Weekly Extra podcast from a while back was essentially a massive preview of Raptors vs. Celtics for the season.
Everyone’s healthy that’s expected to be healthy, though two players remain on assignment with Raptors 905. The Raptors will go 11-deep, then, with the ability to mix and match lineups to meet Boston going small or stretching out big. DeMarre Carroll’s presence here opes up some options for going smaller, Patrick Patterson can likely spot in on Al Horford at the five if needed, and Norman Powell was extremely effective playing up a position the last time the teams met, scoring 20 points with five steals in 35 minutes.
Dwane Casey will have plenty of flexibility to go smaller, to throw length out across the wing positions, and to get additional ball-handlers on the floor to help alleviate the pressure from Boston’s strong perimeter defense.Once again, the value of Casey’s flexibility and some of the silver lining of dealing with injuries shows here. The Raptors have learned to play a lot of different ways, and while they don’t always work, they’re a lot more familiar going a lot more ways than in years past.
What Casey won’t have, though, is a slam dunk option to start at power forward if he remains averse to giving Patterson the nod. That position, and the rotations that fall out from it, remains fluid. The guess here is the Raptors roll the dice starting small opposite Amir Johnson (or perhaps Jonas Jerebko), but check back closer to tip off to see what they’re doing. Dual centers wouldn’t seem that great a matchup opposite a spacy, rangy Boston attack.
UPDATE: Patterson starts at the four. FINALLY. Wish we had more time before tip-off to digest this, but it is the right call, now and in perpetuity moving forward.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross
PF: Patrick Patterson, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira, Jakob Poeltl
Assigned: Fred VanVleet, Bruno Caboclo
OUT: Delon Wright, Jared Sullinger
The Celtics were without Thomas in the first meeting, and they’ll be without Avery Bradley here due to an Achilles injury. Bradley’s a big loss as far as defending Lowry goes, and while he gives up some size to DeRozan, he certainly would have been an option there, as well. That shifts the defensive load on the Raptors’ stars to Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder, players who are definitely up for the challenge and have had varying degrees of success in the past. This is one of those games where Toronto will need big contributions from its role players, helping beat traps, knock down open looks, or, in the case of Carroll or Powell, taking advantage of a cross-match onto a small.
Getting Thomas back is huge. He’s averaging 28 points in 33.7 minutes, kicking in 6.1 assists, scoring with ruthless efficiency, living at the free-throw line…he’s been a damn terror. Cory Joseph has struggled on defense of late, and he needs to figure that out, like, immediately unless he’s going to surrender minutes to Powell or even Terrence Ross here, because I can’t imagine the Raptors want Lowry spending too much of his time on Thomas, at least until late.
Tyler Zeller (sinus infection [same]) is out, too, and James Young (ankle) is questionable but out of the rotation, anyway.
PG: Isaiah Thomas, Terry Rozier, Demetrius Jackson
SG: Marcus Smart, Gerald Green
SF: Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown, (James Young)
PF: Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, Jordan Mickey
C: Al Horford, Kelly Olynyk
TBD: James Young
Out: Avery Bradley, Tyler Zeller
- Fred VanVleet and Bruno Caboclo remain with Raptors 905, who also tip off locally tonight. Delon Wright is back with the parent club after getting some 3-on-3 work in with the 905 yesterday. He still hasn’t been cleared for a return to full practice, but he’s drawing closer.
- Jared Sullinger is expected to see the doctor who performed his surgery for a check up next week, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN. From there, we’ll probably get a more clear idea of when he might be able to return. He’s been around the team and working out plenty, even doing some light-speed 4-on-4 work, though he’ll probably need at least a week of practice (and maybe a D-League game?) to get to where the team is comfortable playing him. I’ve had the All-Star Break in my head all season as a potential return date, and Sullinger beating, or even meeting, that would be a positive development.
- Shameless self promotion – Over at The Athletic, I’ll be hosting a weekly Raptors podcast, usually with Eric Koreen. You can subscribe to the iTunes feed here or just check out the Soundcloud. I also wrote about Kyle Lowry’s ridiculous 3-point shooting over at Vice. As always, you can find all my work on my Facebook or Twitter.
- It’s Huskies night again!
The Raptors are 4.5-point favorites with a 218 over-under. That total seems a bit high, but all of the Raptors’ totals seem a bit high this year, and they keep hitting them anyway. I’m not sure about the spread, though. The Raptors can and should win this game, but the try-hards in Boston seem likely to make it a tough fight. Beating Boston with some emphasis would be nice. Losing would probably make Will have a meltdown on the reaction podcast.