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Boston and Divisional Foe Toronto Square Off in Canada

Sunday, January 10, 2010

1:00pm

Arena: Air Canada Centre

TV: Comcast SportsNet; Radio: 850 AM WEEI

Game Thread [] Chat Room

The Boston Celtics visit the Toronto Raptors at 1:00pm, aiming to go up 3-0 in the season series.

The Celtics enter Canada fresh off a difficult 93-85 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night, while the Raptors are looking for their fourth straight win, after knocking off the San Antonio Spurs, the Orlando Magic and the Philadelphia 76ers earlier this month.

These Atlantic Division foes have already met twice this season, with Boston prevailing in both contests. The last time these two squads squared off (January 2), the vastly shorthanded Celtics (the game in which Tony Allen started at point guard and J.R. Giddens started at small forward) snapped the Raptors then five-game winning streak.

Despite the Raptors defeating two quality opponents during their current win streak, they're still not paying much attention to detail on the defensive end. Throughout this streak the Raptors might be scoring a bunch of points (102.3 points per game), but they're nearly allowing more points than they score (98.3). Their scoring differential throughout the streak is only four points per game, which suggests they have not dominated these matchups.

Boston's offensive numbers have been terrific against the Raptors this season, with averages of 109.5 points per game and 29.5 assists per game. While the defense hasn't exactly been of the lock down brand (Toronto's averaging 99.5 points against the Celtics this season), the specific circumstances of the two meetings between these teams hasn't necessarily allowed the Celtics to put their best defensive unit on the floor at all times.

Regardless, Toronto's refusal to play defense (opponents are scoring an average of 105.08 points per game against the Raptors this season) probably won't change suddenly during today's game, so if the Celtics can put together even a fairly pedestrian defensive effort, they should be able to score enough to escape Toronto with a victory.

Projected Starters:

Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rasheed Wallace, Kendrick Perkins

Raptors: Jarrett Jack, DeMar DeRozan, Hedo Turkoglu, Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani

Health Check: For the Celtics, Kevin Garnett (knee) and guard Marquis Daniels (thumb) are out, while guard Tony Allen (illness) is questionable.

For the Raptors, forward Reggie Evans (foot) is out.

Keep It In Mind: In two games against the Raptors this season, Rasheed Wallace is averaging 15.5 points and is shooting 54.5 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from three-point nation.

Who's Hot: For the Celtics, Paul Pierce scored nine of his 21 points against the Hawks in the fourth quarter.

For the Raptors, Chris Bosh posted 29 points against the 76ers on Friday.

Who's Not: For the Celtics, Rasheed Wallace shot just 5-15 (1-8 from the nation) against the Hawks on Friday.

For the Raptors, Hedo Turkoglu is coming off a 3-7, 9-point performance against Philadelphia.

Key Matchup: Rasheed Wallace vs. Andrea Bargnani

Honorable Mention: Kendrick Perkins vs. Chris Bosh

Skinny: The Celtics (along with every other team in the league) always need to worry about Chris Bosh, who enters today's game with averages of 22.5 points and 11.0 rebounds against the C's this season. if the Celtics can slow down Bosh and (as previously mentioned) put together a routine defensive effort, they should be able to score enough points to go up 3-0 in the season series.

The Raptors haven't been running at the frenetic pace one might expect from a team so focused on offense, as they're averaging only 14.6 fast break points per game over the course of their three-game winning streak. Regardless, they're always capable of pushing the ball in transition, and they're taking over 14 three-pointers per game over that same stretch.

Boston should win the battle of the boards today, as the Raptors season rebounding average (40.16) is less than a full rebound ahead of Boston's season average (39.17). Controlling the glass (both offensive and defensive) will give the Celts a better shot at a win heading into tomorrow night's rematch against the Hawks. The earlier the Celtics can put Toronto out of commission, the better.