Boston Celtics (24-7, 11-5 Rd) @ Toronto Rapotors (11-21, 7-9 Hm)
Time: 6:00 PM EST, Sunday, Jan 2nd, 2011, Venue: Air Canada Centre
Officials: James Capers, Marat Kogut, Tom Washington
TV: CSNNE, TSN2 Radio: WEEI
The Line: Prior to this season, since Kevin Garnett arrived in Boston the Celtics had gone 11-1
against the Toronto Raptors. The loss earlier this season to Toronto marked only the second time
in the Garnett era that the C's lost to the Rapts. The Celtics have not lost 3 consecutive
games yet this season, but are currently on a 2 game losing streak.
If you're a Boston fan, you're thinking it: "I've seen this before". You're looking at the injuries to Kevin Garnett, that are being mostly downplayed by Boston management, you're looking at close games you believe the Celtics should've closed out, and have in the past. You're looking at 12-pt losses to bad teams that leave a terrible lingering taste of unmatched effort and a lacksidasical attitude. You're looking at a rotational big that used to be a top tier defensive player but is now aging, and not quite fitting into the rotation, and you're thinking to yourself..."I've been here before".
So you're looking at tonight's game against the Raptors, and you have an understandable lump in your throat. If someone asked you a month ago what the Celtics would've done after dropping two games, the answer was easy; the Celtics would've released the Kraken and Luke Harangody would've gotten 10 mins of burn in the second half. Now though, maybe we're not so cavalier with our predictions..maybe now secretly you wouldn't even be surprised if the Celtics dropped one tonight, and ran the risk of being .500 or worst against Toronto for the first time since Gerald Green was a Celtic.
Well, I'm here to tell you to calm down. You need to summer donna.Tonight, I'm calling it, the Celtics are going to demolish the Raptors. And its not just because their best player, Andrea Bargnani, is out, the Celtics' best and most consistent player so far this season (although when on the floor Rondo has arguably been better), Kevin Garnett, is out tonight. Tonight's game is about pride. Its about not making excuses, its about guys like Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo (maybe, he's questionable) and Ray Allen proving that they're capable of keeping the course, and its about guys like Glen Davis, Marquis Daniels, Nate Robinson, and even our 'Lil Leprachaun' Luke Harangody proving that they can be counted on when the team needs them to step up.
The Celtics have not dropped three games all season, and I doubt that it changes now.
Probable Starting Lineups
Injuries And Stuff: Rajon Rondo (QUES), Semih Erden (QUES), Kevin Garnett (OUT), Kendrick Perkins (OUT), Delonte West (OUT)
Injuries And Stuff: Reggie Evans (OUT), Andrea Bargnani (OUT), Peja (OUT), Jerryd Bayless (QUES), Sonny Weems (QUES)
Three Keys For The Good Guys:
1) Paul Pierce And Ray Allen Play Their Greatest Hits!: Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are not the players they once were. That is a known fact, and it has literally been beat to death over the last 3 years. But, with Kevin Garnett out tonight and quite possibly Rajon Rondo with him, both Pierce and Allen need to shoulder a little more of the burden than they would ideally have to. More than volume you need efficiency from Pierce and especially Ray Allen. If tonight we can get 18 points on 8-12 shooting from Ray, that's far more indicative of a possible win than 26 points on a 10 for 23 appearance.
2) We Need More From Less With Baby: Glen Davis has been doing his best to step in for Kevin Garnett and replace KG's production, at least as much as is able. You can tell when watching him that he's forcing shots he might not otherwise take, and he's holding onto the ball longer, trying to sometimes make something out of nothing. Since Christmas, Glen Davis is shooting 36% from the field, where he has been shooting almost 47% from the field on the year. Glen Davis needs to get back under the hoop on a more regular basis, and stop relying on his (improved..don't get me wrong) jump shot, and above all stop putting the ball on the floor when he's at the top of the key.
3) Shaq Needs To Get Back, Get Back, Get Back To Where He Was Playing Earlier: Gotta start having 18 minutes or more from Shaq every night. In the six games since he's come back from injury, his minutes are down and his fouls are up. He's currently averaging .22 fouls per minute, which if he were playing 21 minutes per game (as is his season average) would mean he would be getting almost 5 fouls in that time, as opposed to just 3.5 as an average on the season. Jermaine O'Neal coming back is a boon, no matter what you may think of our aging tower of defense, but of the two of them, it is Shaq's job to be a 2-way player, and it is JO's job to be a defense monster and foul machine. We don't need 29 year old Shaq, we do however need beginning of the season Shaq.