Christmas Day is marketed as one of the premier days of the NBA calendar, and yet far more often than not the Raptors have been left out in the cold. Today marks just the second time in the franchise’s history, and not since the days of Vince Carter.
In 2001 Toronto visited the New York Knicks as one of just two games on the Christmas schedule. Morris Peterson chipped in 22 points to lead the Raptors on way to a 102-94 defeat. Even then the Knicks sucked and finished with the worst record in the Atlantic Division at 30-52, and yet it was New York that came out on top.
The hope is today will be different as the Raptors take on the Boston Celtics in the first game of the Christmas slate, and the first Christmas home game in the team’s history. Sure, it’s a 12:00pm start time, but Raptors fans finally got their wish to be included in the festive season.
The middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture is certainly crowded, and both Boston (2nd) and Toronto (4th) are fighting to be at the top of the pack. A win today will have Toronto temporarily leapfrog Boston. While this means virtually nothing at this point in the season, the first playoff tie-breaker is head-to-head record. Boston currently holds a 1-0 advantage after their 112-106 victory on October 25th.
Boston was led that game by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who both finished with 25 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists, while Kamba Walker contributed 22 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists. What really killed the Raptors though was 21 second chance points as Boston rebounded 33.9 percent of their misses. Only Houston (24) and Utah (21) have scored as many second chance buckets against the Raptors this season.
The Celtics have the 6th ranked offence, the 4th ranked defence, and the 3rd best net rating. By all statistical evidence they are an elite team of try hards. With classic Raptor killers like Kamba and Brown, Toronto will need a high level game to come out on top.
Unfortunately both teams are having to win with far from healthy rosters, which takes some of the glow out of the festivities. Toronto will of course be without the services of Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, and Norman Powell (all our indefinitely), as well as possibly Matt Thomas still.
Boston counters with their own list of walking wounded, with injuries to Vincent Poirier and Robert Williams. They may also be without the services of Gordon Hayward (day-to-day) and Marcus Smart (unlikely).
With a 16-0 record against losing teams the Raptors have made their mark against the dredges of the NBA, doing exactly what successful teams should do. Unfortunately their record against teams with above .500 records (5-9 after Monday’s overtime loss to Indiana) needs improvement. Boston on the other hand has a record of 7-6 against winning teams.
And if things don’t work out well today than we all switch to Festivus and air our grievances. The cycle will be complete.