Ah, the second night of a back-to-back in Boston. Where have we seen this before?
Albeit, it wasn’t originally scheduled this way, as the Detroit game was pushed back a day. However the Raptors travelled down this same road three weeks ago in a 120-106 loss. Toronto was competitive, but didn’t have the legs to finish numerous opportunities in the fourth quarter. Overall, the Raptors are 1-5 on the second leg of back-to-backs this season. Here comes Game three of the year between these two teams, with Boston holding a 2-0 edge.
The Celtics seemed to hit rock bottom a week ago, spiraling to two games below .500 and 10th in the East at 15-17. Some jokes were cracked about Boston having two All-Stars. But since then, they have won three straight and now sit in fourth. Kemba Walker deserves a lot of the credit, as he has resurfaced after struggling mightily coming back from knee surgery in mid January. Walker averaged 15 points on 34.2 percent shooting from the field over his first 10 games. Since then? Kemba’s scoring is up to a more usual 22.7 ppg, 43.5 percent from the field and 42.2 percent from three in his last nine. More importantly he’s made key plays down the stretch, highlighted by his season-high 32 point performance in a win against Indiana last Friday.
The Raptors are coming off an ugly defensive performance vs Detroit, where they allowed nine three-pointers in the first quarter alone and 20 in the game. Boston made that same amount in the last meeting, starring Semi Ojeleye’s six threes and career-high 24 points. Rookie Payton Pritchard (26th overall pick) also made six behind the arc, and has scored 20 and 23 points in the first two games. Those are his only two 20-point games of his career. New Raptor killer? Toronto will need to close out on shooters a lot better than they did against Detroit, where the Raptors routinely lost Wayne Ellington. Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet are arguably the Raptors three best defenders. However unless protocols say otherwise, they most likely are not walking through that door tonight.
Offensively, someone needs to help Norman Powell and Kyle Lowry. Powell is coming off a 36-point performance on 14-20 shooting. You can’t really ask for much more, and it’s going to be hard to duplicate that going against a better defensive team in Boston. Lowry admitted he needs to take more than the 11 shots he attempted last night. There just isn’t enough reliable options right now. I can’t see the role players having a worse shooting night. Terence Davis, Yuta Watanabe, Stanley Johnson, Paul Watson and DeAndre Bembry combined to shoot 2-21 vs Detroit. Many of these shots were wide open threes created from Lowry. Watanabe and Davis started vs the Pistons, but they didn’t provide any support.
On a bright note, Matt Thomas may have re-found his stroke in the 4th quarter last game. He shot 4-5 in the 4th quarter for 11 points, easily a season-high. His last double-digit performance came in the first pre-season game against Charlotte, where he looked like he was going to be a regular fixture in the rotation. So if Thomas can pick up where he left off, maybe we can start calling him “Mr. 99 percent” and “Matty Ice” again.
Standings update: The Raptors are currently eighth in the East. They will continue to remain in the traffic jam of .500-ish teams regardless of this game’s result. This is the final game before the All-Star break. Awesome timing.
Tip-off: 7:00 PM EST | TV: TSN 1/4 | Radio: TSN 1050
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Terence Davis, Matt Thomas, Paul Watson, Jalen Harris
SF: Norman Powell, DeAndre Bembry
PF: Yuta Watanabe, Stanley Johnson
C: Aron Baynes, Chris Boucher, Donta Hall
PG: Kemba Walker, Payton Pritchard, Jeff Teague, Carsen Edwards
SG: Jaylen Brown, Javonte Green
SF: Jayson Tatum, Aaron Nesmith
PF: Daniel Theis, Semi Ojeleye, Grant Williams
C: Tristan Thompson, Robert Williams, Tacko Fall
Boston is favoured by eight. Over/Under is set at 219.5