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Game thread: Boston Celtics host Eastern Conference top dog Toronto Raptors

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The Celtics dropped the first matchup in Toronto, but can make up ground in the East tonight

NBA: Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a blowout victory over the Chicago Bulls, the Boston Celtics host Eastern Conference top dogs, the Toronto Raptors. This is the Celtics second matchup with the Raptors, after falling 113-101 earlier this season in Toronto.

That loss north of the border came in Boston’s second game of the season. After hitting the halftime break with a four-point lead, the Celtics came unraveled in the second half. Toronto scored 64 points after the break and pulled away late in the fourth quarter in front of a raucous home crowd.

Kyrie Irving led Boston with 21 points and was joined in double-digits in scoring by the other four Celtics starters. Brad Stevens’ reserves struggled in the game though, with 23 points on 8-of-28 shooting. Overall, Boston hit just over 40 percent of their shots and took only 10 free throws for the game.

Toronto was led by Kawhi Leonard’s 31 points, but it was veterans Serge Ibaka and Danny Green who made the difference. Ibaka scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds, including four on the offensive glass. Green put up 14 points, while also playing excellent defense, on his way to a game-high plus/minus of +25.

Since that early-season matchup, the Raptors had rolled until this week. Toronto was 12-1 before dropping back-to-back games for the first time this season. Both of those losses came at home to the New Orleans Pelicans and Detroit Pistons. In both defeats, the Raps normally solid defense allowed the Pelicans and Pistons to get whatever they wanted on offense, especially in the paint.

On the Boston side, the Celtics have been a work in progress. They closed an early road-trip with a 1-4 record. The defense continues to be strong for the Cs, but the offense is prone to frustrating bouts of inconsistency. Boston seemed to have figured some things out against the weak-defending Bulls, but will be tested by the Raptors.

Both teams come in relatively healthy. Boston has no injuries, assuming Marcus Morris is over his recent illness. Toronto will be without reserves C.J. Miles and Norman Powell.

Both squads being healthy makes this a bit of a measuring-stick game. For the Celtics, it’s a chance to beat a division and conference rival in Boston. And it’s an opportunity to begin making up ground for one of the Eastern Conference’s top seeds. For the Raptors, this is a chance to prove they are the East’s best team and can take down top opponents on the road. While it’s still early, the holidays are nearly upon us. That is when teams feel as though they have enough data to understand where they are at. Banking a win over a top team would go a long way towards helping Boston rebound from their less-than-ideal start.

Projected Starters

PG – Kyrie Irving vs Kyle Lowry

SG – Jaylen Brown vs Danny Green

SF – Jayson Tatum vs Kawhi Leonard

PF – Gordon Hayward vs Pascal Siakam

C – Al Horford vs Serge Ibaka

Injuries

Boston – No injuries reported

Toronto – C.J. Miles (OUT), Norman Powell (OUT)

How to Watch

Time – 7:00 PM EST

TV - ESPN