The Celtics head north for their final game of the season against the Toronto Raptors, a season series that the Celtics currently lead 2-1. A win tonight would definitively give the the Celtics the advantage in the tie-breakers. However, the Celtics would still find themselves 5.5 games back of the Raptors with a win tonight. With only 21 games remaining, that’s substantial ground to make up and would require a synchronized Celtics surge with a Raptors collapse...
I guess it’s possible!
Danny Green has been a Celtics-killer in his short time in Toronto and is 10-22 (45.5%) from deep against the Celtics this year. A key component of tonight’s game will be making sure that someone is ready to contest him when the shots go up. Leaving Green alone has allowed the Raptors to claw their way back into games, and he’s particularly dangerous as a trailer in transition.
This will likely be another game where the absence of Aron Baynes is felt very acutely, as the Boston big has been the Celtics on/off leader against the Raptors this year. The Raptors also added former DPOY and All-NBA player Marc Gasol at the trade deadline. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, the Celtics will have trouble finding the requisite size and strength to handle Gasol.
The good news, is that the Raptors are still figuring out how to best integrate the former Grit n’ Grind stalwart into their rotations, and the Celtics will have an opportunity to feel out this new look Raptors team whom they could end up facing again as soon as the second round of the playoffs.
Speaking of things that will draw the Celtics attention, Kawhi Leonard will be coming off resting against the Raptor’s loss to the Magic and should be fresh against the Celtics. Gang Green has actually done a pretty good job at minimizing in the offensive impact of Leonard (66 points in the field on 69 shots), save one area. Leonard has gotten the line at will against the Celtics and has drawn 31 free throws over the first three games of the season series. Those free throws turned into 29 points, something that kept the Raptors afloat when the Celtics would begin to pull away.
Gordon Hayward has been quietly very effective in all three contests this year against the Raptors, and he may be a smart tap for Brad with Raptors wing rotation further thinned by trades. Irving will receive a majority of the attention when he and Hayward are on the floor and it would be nice to see Gordon use that time to attack close outs. Like he does here.
PG – Kyrie Irving – Kyle Lowry
SG – Marcus Smart – Danny Green
SF – Jayson Tatum – Kawhi Leonard
PF – Marcus Morris Sr. – Pascal Siakam
C – Al Horford – Serge Ibaka
Boston – Aron Baynes (Out, Foot)
Toronto – Fred VanVleet (Out, Thumb)
How To Watch
Time – 8:00 EST
TV – TNT; NBC Sports Boston