The sky may be constantly falling in Boston, but they’re still a heck of a team. Well, maybe, scratch that; they’re a heck of a collection of talents. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford especially feast on Toronto’s coverages whenever they get the chance to play against the Raptors. Boston leads the season series 2-1 over Toronto, and both Boston wins were against the same Toronto starting lineup that will go tonight. Irving ascended to deity status in both wins. On November 16, he scored 43 points in 29 possessions. In a January 16 win over Toronto, he scored 27 points and dished a career-high 18 assists. He and Horford danced Toronto to death.
Nick Nurse said pregame that the team has played Irving straight up in all three games with almost no variance in their defence. That will change tonight. Expect multiple primary defenders, including non-point guards like Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. Expect multiple coverages, probably including early double-teams and rotations coming from varying locations on the drive. Just don’t expect Toronto to start going under the screens set for Irving.
For Toronto, Marc Gasol hasn’t yet had a proper breakout game. He’s been good, sure, but he hasn’t been the third star that Toronto surely hoped for in dealing for him. His scoring high since being traded north of the border is 16, which is solid, but probably not enough against teams as strong as Boston. His passing has been a significant positive, but his defence, especially against Horford when they match up, could help determine the results of this one.
Gasol will come off the bench. If you throw out his performance previous to arriving in Toronto, he hasn’t earned the starting job. As Aron Baynes – another noted Raptors killer – is unavailable in this one, some dominant minutes for Gasol against lesser Boston size at the center spot could go a long way for Toronto.
Fred Van Vleet (thumb) remains out, but Kawhi Leonard will return. The 905 don’t play until Thursday, so expect the full contingent of Chris Boucher, Jordan Loyd, and Malcolm Miller to be available. Marc Gasol got his first start on Sunday, but Ibaka will start once again here.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Jeremy Lin, Jordan Loyd
SG: Danny Green, Patrick McCaw, Jodie Meeks
SF: Kawhi Leonard, Norman Powell, Malcolm Miller
PF: Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby
C: Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Chris Boucher
Kyrie Irving (rest) didn’t participate in Monday’s practice, but he is going tonight. Aron Baynes is still out with a left foot contusion.
PG: Kyrie Irving, Terry Rozier
SG: Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, PJ Dozier, Brad Wanamaker
SF: Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, Semi Ojeleye
PF: Marcus Morris, Guerschon Yabusele
C: Al Horford, Daniel Theis, Robert Williams
Toronto is -3.5. Toronto might not be the best pick here. The Raptors may have won a lot of their games recently, but Orlando exposed some issues. Boston is an excellent team with a history of success against this Raptors team. The over-under is 226.5.