There will never be a substitute for the feeling we all felt when the Raptors won the chip. However, in the regular season, there are few things that reach a higher high than a victory against Celtics. The Raptors are headed to ‘Beantown’ looking to wrestle win number two of the season away from the grubby and grabby team in green.
*Insert joke about Freddy vs. Jayson*
In preparation for this Atlantic Division showdown I decided to chop it up with my pal, Michael Pina. He’s a terrific writer for SB Nation, covering the league at large. He had a couple fantastic pieces about the Raptors during their championship run, and I always find him to be extremely insightful in our conversations. However, he is a Celtics fan. So there’s that.
Samson Folk: Jaylen Brown got paid, no doubt with the Celtics relying on some improvements in a number of areas going forward. They solidified one half of their young and talented wing tandem. Between Tatum and Brown, who would you rather OG Anunoby defend for most of the game, and why?
Michael Pina: If I’m Nick Nurse, I’d put Pascal Siakam on Jaylen to let him roam, help, and mitigate foul trouble. OG can do his best to lock down either Tatum or Gordon Hayward.
Folk: The Celtics front-court is a mixed bag, for sure. Who do you think best suits the starting role for the Celtics center position?
Pina: For now—even though he’s out against the Raptors—it’s Enes Kanter. He’s by far Boston’s most skilled big and best rebounder. Defense has long been the biggest weakness in Kanter’s game, but Boston’s wings are potentially long, fast, and physical enough to make up for it against most teams.
Folk: Kyrie Irving cooked the Raptors defense last year, and that was when they had Kawhi Leonard in tow. Do you think Kemba Walker will have similar success getting into the teeth of the Raptors defense after he struggled vs. the immense size of the 76ers?
Pina: The Celtics ran a bunch of pick-and-rolls with Kemba against Philadelphia and it didn’t work out so well. But the Sixers are abnormal and will probably finish with the NBA’s best defense. Against most teams, including Toronto, Walker will take and make more of the shots he was accustomed to in Charlotte—with the added benefit of more surrounding talent.
Folk: As a person who isn’t a Raptors fan, what was your biggest takeaways from their roster on opening night?
Pina: They still have a ton of intelligence on both ends, and can play lineups that force defenses to account for five guys that can do damage from a triple-threat position. Siakam is the big question mark, so far as crunch-time scoring goes, but if they keep this group together they should be able to finish with home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference.
Folk: Is Jayson Tatum’s newfound rejection of the “Mamba Mentality” a meaningless projection of the media, or do you think it will bear fruit in the upcoming season?
Pina: I think both are a bit overblown. His ceiling is a scoring champion, and scoring champions (for the most part) do damage from the mid-range. So long as that’s not where a majority of his shots come from, Tatum will be the perennial All-Star/franchise player Boston desperately needs him to be.
Folk: Who do you want the Celtics to stick on Siakam?
Pina: Boston has several options, but I imagine Siakam will see a ton of Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and—when VanVleet and Lowry both aren’t on the floor—Marcus Smart.
Folk: Who’s winning this game?
Pina: After losing the way they did in Philadelphia, Boston isn’t pumped to square off against the defending champs, another smart, skilled team full of veterans who won’t be phased in a raucous road environment. But everything that went wrong in the season opener (Jaylen’s foul trouble, atrocious free-throw shooting, a drought by Kemba) is in the past. They’ll win on Friday.
Tipoff: 7:05 EST | TV: TSN | Radio: TSN1050
Patrick McCaw (knee soreness), and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (left groin) are questionable.
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Terence Davis, Matt Thomas
SF: OG Anunoby, Stanley Johnson, Malcolm Miller
PF: Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher
C: Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Dewan Hernandez
Enes Kanter (left knee contusion) will not play. Tacko Fall (concussion) is unlikely to play.
PG: Kemba Walker, Carsen Edwards, Tremont Waters, Brad Wanamaker
SG: Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart
SF: Gordon Hayward, Semi Ojeleye
PF: Jayson Tatum, Grant Williams
C: Daniel Theis, Robert Williams
This Celtics team is really, really small. Nick Nurse experimented with a massive Gasol-Ibaka-Siakam look against the Pelicans, and I wonder if that might appear in this game. Siakam’s defensive versatility can allow them to get creative with defending 1-3, and they could annihilate the Celtics on the glass. Interesting stuff! Enjoy the game.
Have a blessed day.