I know pre-season’s all about preparation and practice but there’s something different about tonight’s game against Boston. Or at least there should be. They’re playing their Big Three 20-23 minutes a game so far this pre-season which means there’s a good chance we’ll see a competitive first quarter with the “real” lineup for both teams, especially after all three sat out the win against New Jersey last night. Hedo Turkoglu will play and Triano will put him out there with Bosh, Calderon, DeRozan and Bargnani. If nothing else, let’s just win the first quarter and then hand it off to the lesser players to see the formalities through. Other than my primal desire to see the Raptors win a game – any game – against Boston, there are some very interesting matchups and player comments to talk about.
First up, the attitude towards this game from Bosh is on point:
We’re going to play more minutes than we usually play than the previous four games. We’re probably going to get after it a little more, Boston comes out to play every time. We have to have the same mentality.
Mind you, he’s made very similar statements before games like these only to come up short. Second, got to love Jose Calderon’s take on Boston. He was asked about how the Raptors have had trouble with the C**tics:
I feel like we do have trouble with them but I don’t think they like to play us. I don’t think they play comfortable against us either.
He was the only one on the team who stood up to the mega-c**t when he pulled off that stunt last year and obviously doesn’t want to shell out respect to Boston as easily as everyone else. He also happens to be the player that led us to our last win against them in the winter of 2008. He commented on where he and the team are in terms of preparation:
First time I’m feeling 100%. I feel really comfortable today, hoepfully everything is coming. For sure we’ll be ready. I don’t know it’ll be perfect but we’ll be ready for the 28th. We’ve been practicing pretty good, but we just got to do it for 48 and [avoid] highs and lows. Sometimes we concentrate on defense and we don’t play as good on offense. Sometimes we play good offense, and miss something on defense. We’re happy where we are at this point and I’m comfortable with where I am. We have to just start playing like a team and put the little things together…today I had the best practice I had since I got here….with every day I’m getting better and my basketball is coming back.
It certainly sounds like he’s not too worried about his play so far so why should I be. Triano spoke about where the team offense is right now and it turns out there has been almost zero focus on it:
All of our offense is continuity based right now, we haven’t put in any of our screen and roll stuff yet, that’ll come naturally once these guys get to know each other. Everything we’re doing right now is just based on guys swinging the ball and playing together. When we get into screen ‘n roll right now we got two guys playing together and making reads. The project for training camp so far has been to get these guys acclimated together.
Other than the running game spawned by the guards the offense has looked very pedestrian and its good to know there’s a reason for it. It makes sense since Bosh and Turkoglu have been out and those two are going to be in the top three when it comes to touches. He’s split the pre-season into two halves, the first is where you get to know your nine new teammates and the other is understanding how to play with them. I suppose it’s far easier to be without your big guns for the first half than the second. I think it’ll take more than just reads and ball movement to crack the C**tics defense tonight but the game will provide an excellent measure of just how far along the offense needs to go before October 28th. This one could not have come at a better time.
On to some matchups:
DeRozan vs Allen/Pierce: The rookie should get a good run around the gym chasing Allen through screens stronger than anything he’s seen in his life. If he’s matched up with Pierce there’s a decent chance he’ll try to go at the rookie and DeRozan’s man-defense should be tested. After failing the Iggy assignment, let’s see how he regroups against an even better player. Offensively, the Celtics are rock solid in their transition defense so the run-outs won’t be plentiful forcing him to show us his scoring ability in the half-court. Should be fun. DeRozan yesterday also said that he’s never seen anybody as intense as KG.
Bosh vs Garnett: Usually the script here reads Bosh getting dominated when it counts. KG then goes to the bench only for Bosh to put up some meaningless numbers making his stat-line look less despicable. Unfortunately, the box score never tells you who you got your points against. Will this be year Bosh overcomes the fear of Garnett? I’ve seen this movie too many times to count on that happening. Garnett missed last night’s game against the Nets but is expected to play tonight.
Calderon vs Rondo: A friend of mine asked me two years ago how Boston would do and I remember telling him how Rondo was a huge weakness, what with the jumper and all. Well, that ‘friend’ doesn’t talk to me about basketball anymore. Back to the matchup, Rondo’s the guy who tore Calderon’s hamstring to shreds last year in the first game in Toronto. If there’s a chance this pre-season to make a statement about his health and recovery, the two games against Boston are it. So far he’s done little to show that he’s overcome any of the problems he had last year and we’re just brushing his play under the “he hasn’t played all summer” carpet, hopefully with good reason. Rondo is coming off a great game against the Nets where Lawrence Frank labeled him an “elite point guard”.
The interesting player to watch on Boston is Marquis Daniels who they got for $1.9M, perhaps the best bargain of the summer. The versatile swingman doesn’t do anything great but can play all three positions, something we hope Belinelli can do for us. There’s also the Jack v House matchup which will test Jack’s ability to stick with pesky little guards that constantly move behind screen after screen looking for an inch of space to fire that quick release. Lou Williams torched both our guards in 1v1 situations and although House doesn’t have the skill to pull that off, he will test the alertness of anyone guarding him.
Other than yesterday’s game when Garnett didn’t play, Rasheed Wallace has been coming off the bench but is questionable for the game with a sprained ankle which means we’re likely not going to see his protege, Amir Johnson go up against him. We’ve had trouble containing Wallace over the years since Bosh can’t defend him in the post because of the high-release and he’s always making us pay from outside with the three. Our first loss of the season last year was a great example of how Wallace goes about stuffing Bosh on both ends. The good news is that we’ll face Bosh’s worst nightmares, Garnett and Wallace, only four times this year, the bad news is that those could be four miserable games for him.
Boston is 3-1 in pre-season with wins against New Jersey twice, New York and a road loss in Houston.
The game’s not on TV or radio. Swing by the chat to see if there’s a live stream.