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Gameday: Celtics vs Raptors

The Raptors return home to snowy Toronto looking to right the ship against a banged-up Boston side.

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Here we are: the 20 game mark, nominally a quarter of the way through the season. Since starting off 6-4, the Raptors are 3-7 in their last 10. Many, including myself, had extremely high hopes for this team after they rattled off a 5-game win streak against good opposition (without Pascal Siakam, no less). Is it time to re-adjust those expectations, or can this team turn it around?

Is it time to talk Siakam?

The Pascal Siakam discourse is so unbelievably toxic that many Raptors Writers/Journos have serious trepidation about even broaching the topic, but that once-small sample size is getting bigger and bigger and I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the following: Toronto is 2-7 in games which Pascal plays.

Obviously the record doesn’t tell the entire story, but it’s a sensationalist narrative and naturally people have run with it. Despite the team’s performance, Siakam is still a net positive while out on the floor, posting a 1.3 BPM in 294 minutes so far this season. The defence is a tad concerning, however. This season, Pascal has logged a career-worst -1.1 DBPM. I’m inclined to give Pascal a pass considering he is coming off a serious injury and has been thrust into an unfamiliar role, but there certainly have been moments where he hasn’t exactly passed the eye-test with flying colours:

The bigger concern might be the fit with Scottie Barnes. Lineups containing both Siakam and Barnes are posting a measly -0.3 net rating, which ranks 14th out of the 16 two-man pairings that have logged over 200 minutes this season. In theory these two CAN work together, but in practice they don’t… at least not yet.

The jury is still out on whether these guys can co-exist, but Raptors fans can be an ornery bunch, especially when they’re tired of losing. If it becomes obvious that Siakam is a hindrance to Scottie Barnes’ development it may be up to Masai to step in. Here’s hoping the Raps resolve the issue before it gets to that point.

Centres

Missing Khem Birch is going to be a challenge, as the Raptors are incredibly thin at Centre to begin with.


Fortunately for the Raptors, Boston is missing Robert Williams, who went off for 16 points and 13 boards last time the two teams met in Boston. Achiuwa might be in for a long night against wily (read: old) veteran Al Horford, but expect the Raptors defence to tighten up playing in front of a home crowd for the first time since mid-November.

Keep an eye on:

With Gary Trent limited or out altogether, could we see the return of Goran Dragic? Although he hasn’t exactly wowed Raptors fans with his demeanour OR his performance since arriving in August, Dragic needs to play at some point if they have any hope of moving on from him. Tonight seems like a good opportunity to re-integrate Goran.

Game Info:

Tip-Off: 6:00pm EST | TV: Sportsnet; SN1 | Radio: Sportsnet 1050

Raptors lineup:

Injuries: Gary Trent Jr. (calf) and OG Anunoby (hip) are listed as questionable, while Khem Birch (knee) is out.

PG: Fred VanVleet, Dalano Banton, Malachi Flynn, Goran Dragić

SG: Gary Trent Jr (Q), Svi Mykhailiuk

SF: Scottie Barnes, Yuta Watanabe, Justin Champagnie

PF: Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher

C: Precious Achuiwa

Celtics Lineup:

Injuries: Jaylen Brown (injury management) is questionable, while Robert Williams (illness) and Dennis Schroder (ankle) will not play against the Raptors.

PG: Marcus Smart, Payton Prichard

SG: Jaylen Brown,  Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, Brodric Thomas

SF: Jayson Tatum, Aaron Nesmith, Sam Hauser

PF: Grant Williams, Juancho Hernangomez, Jabari Parker

C: Al Horford, Enes Kanter, Bruno Fernando

The Line:

Moneyline: -110 for both teams

Spread: Raptors -1.5

O/U: 209.5

Player prop worth considering: Scottie Barnes OVER 13.5 points.

Thoughts: It just feels weird that, given the Raptors recent struggles, they remain favourites against the once-mighty Celtics. In their last meeting, the Celtics took care of business in Boston winning 104-88. This time around, however, the Raptors are at home and will surely be re-energized being back in Toronto after a 6-game west coast road trip. Call me a homer, but I’m all over the Raptors in this one. Expect Toronto to tighten up the defence against a divisional rival, so give me the under. As for Scottie: 13.5 points seems ridiculously low considering he’s averaging 23 PPG against the Celtics this season. I know there’s some injury concern, but if he’s not on the report I’d confidently take the over on points all the way up to 16.5.

Conclusion: Raptors ML, Raptors spread, U 209.5 points

And as always: bet wisely, friends.

 

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