This afternoon, the Celtics will deliver their first of 11 afternoon specials, as they'll take on division rival Toronto Raptors at 12:30 pm ET at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto's play has been just as up-and-down as their 6-6 record shows. They've won just three of their last nine games, forcing Sam Mitchell to play with the rotation. As a result, he inserted Andrea Bargnani - the number one overall pick of the 2006 NBA draft - into the starting lineup at small forward, giving Toronto the tallest starting front line in basketball.
On top of that, the kid has played well, to boot. As a starter in Toronto's last four games, Bargnani has held averages of 17.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game to go along with a more-than-respectable 45% three-point shooting clip. In the last two games, Bargnani has posted remarkable totals of 54 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks on 8-14 from beyond the arc.
It's about time the "Italian Stallion" shows some signs of life. The Raptors may need to milk his hot play as much as possible, as well, with Jermaine O'Neal's status uncertain after straining his left knee against New Jersey on Friday night. O'Neal, who put up 23 points and 11 rebounds in Boston just two weeks ago, did not practice yesterday and is listed as day-to-day.
The C's will be looking for their fifth straight win, and their third road victory within the past nine days.
PG SG SF PF C
PPG: Paul Pierce (19.6)
RPG: Kevin Garnett (8.9)
APG: Rajon Rondo (6.6)
SPG: Rajon Rondo (2.2)
BPG: Kendrick Perkins (2.0)
Celtics X-Factor: Close Out
Typically, the first thing that pops into a discussion about the Boston Celtics is their defensive pressure and timely rotations. While defense is this team's calling card, it is imperative that the Celtics close out on shooters against Toronto this afternoon. The Raptors are widely considered the best shooting team in the NBA, and constantly display some of the best spacing the league has to offer. Whether the likes of Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, Jason Kapono, and Anthony Parker are ripping the core from beyond the arc or the frontcourt duo of Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal are knocking down jumpers from mid-range, this Raptors team has the ability to kill you with their shooting on any given night.
PG SG SF PF C
PPG: Chris Bosh (26.9)
RPG: Chris Bosh (10.8)
APG: Jose Calderon (9.4)
SPG: Anthony Parker (1.6)
BPG: Jermaine O'Neal (1.5)
Raptors X-Factor: Ride Crowd Momentum
In most cases, role players play/shoot better in front of their home crowd than they do under high-pressure situations on the road. If Toronto's supporting cast can come out and play efficient basketball behind their roaring crowd, it would be an obvious bonus for Sam Mitchell, and with the way Boston defended Chris Bosh on November 10, the Andrea Bargnanis and Jason Kaponos of the world may be heavily relied upon in order to pull out a W today.
|2008 - Kevin Garnett||16.2||8.9||2.0|
|2008 - Chris Bosh||26.9||10.8||2.3|
Jermaine O'Neal (strained left knee - day-to-day)
Keys to Victory
- Strong Start
- Close Out
- Own the Glass
- Limit Turnovers