Gameday: Raptors @ Celtics, October 9

Another Atlantic division foe. I know it's the preseason but whenever it's the Celtics, it never feels like preseason.

Is this a rivalry yet? I still have a bitter taste in my mouth from that playoff series in the bubble so I’m going to go with ‘yes’.

Boston is one of the most celebrated and decorated franchises in league history but the Raptors have dominated the Atlantic and even brought a championship to the division for the first time since, you guessed it… 2008, when the Celtics last won the NBA world title. I’m still in disbelief that we’re just a year removed from that chaotic series but it was gruelling and ugly. Boston overcame Toronto, but just like their neighbours up north, the C’s have taken a considerable step back from the years they were believed to be contenders. The Raptors descent from chasing a championship has been well documented and last season was a prime example of why roster stability is so absolutely critical. Now, you may be asking yourself “why is Manny talking about games that meant something, whereas this preseason game means nothing?” You’d be right to think that, too.

But if nothing else, this game carries momentum into the regular season and is a battle of pride. Although not quite directly, Toronto and Boston have been foes for some time now. Both were atop the eastern conference throughout the 2010s and are now leaning on younger stars to take them back to the oh, so coveted promised land. I’d argue that the C’s aren’t as far back in their timeline and haven’t taken the sized-step backward that the Raptors have. But, they also have a brand new coach, a new general manager, and a new starting point guard to integrate. Essentially, Boston experienced a culture reset this summer. Toronto’s philosophy changed in 2019 and it’s remained the same, even for new players.

In other words, I don’t care that it’s preseason because the Celtics are still the Celtics and while I admire Jayson Tatum, that’s the only positive thing you’ll get out of me as it pertains to Boston.

OG Anunoby: “Ball”

Who knew that in 2010 when Hedo Turkoglu responded to a question from Jack Armstrong with just the word “ball”, that he was prophesying what OG Anunoby should be getting on 100% of the Raps possessions. Wow, well that’s a reach. On a serious note, OG has been sizing dudes up and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say he’s primed for another substantial uptick in all-around productivity. This is the perfect opportunity to get the ball to him and let him go to work, right before the real season begins. The one thing I wanted to see from OG this season was a quicker first step. Not only has he shown his improvement in that area, but his confidence in commanding the ball has clearly become a key for Toronto’s success. There was a possession in the game on Thursday when he got the ball at the top of the three, executed a couple of dribble moves, hesitated, and shot the ball over his opponent from the same spot. Shot creation. I’m going to stop before I get too wild but it was a beautiful sight to see.

Smother Tatum

Guys like Scottie Barnes, Dalano Banton, and Ish Wainright should see plenty of time guarding the Celtics two stars. It’ll be a good test for the younger guys, considering that Tatum is due for an MVP-like season and might finally have the right mix of young guys and veterans around him to make that leap. But, with Jaylen Brown out because of quarantine, it’s unlikely that the Celtics will play their franchise cornerstone heavy minutes. However, when he is on the court, Toronto shouldn’t shy away from using the length at their disposal. Players like Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kevin Durant are the reason why Toronto decided to construct the roster this way. So, it only makes sense to take full advantage where they can.

Toronto’s Lineup

Pascal Siakam (shoulder), Khem Birch (COVID-19),  Chris Boucher (finger), and Yuta Watanabe (calf strain) are out.

PG: Fred VanVleet, Malachi Flynn, Goran Dragić

SG: Gary Trent Jr., Svi Mykhailiuk, Sam Dekker, Justin Champagnie, David Johnson

SF: OG Anunoby, Dalano Banton, Isaac Bonga

PF: Scottie Barnes, Ish Wainright

C: Precious Achiuwa, Freddie Gillespie, Reggie Perry

Boston’s Lineup

Brown (COVID-19) is in quarantine and will be unavailable.

PG: Dennis Schroeder, Payton Pritchard, Ryan Arcidiacono

SG: Marcus Smart, Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford

SF: Jayson Tatum, Aaron Nesmith

PF: Al Horford, Grant Williams, Juancho Hernangomez

C: Robert Williams, Enes Kanter, Bruno Fernando


The Line

Celtics are favoured by 3.5 with the O/U being 217.5. I’m thinking the Celtics by 7.5 with an O/U of 225.

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