The Celtics return home after a 2-1 road trip to face the Toronto Raptors for the 2nd of 4 games this season. They faced the Raptors in their home opener and lost 115-83 and were booed off their home floor after a lackluster performance. These two teams will meet on November 28 and again on March 28, with both games in Toronto. The Celtics and Raptors played in the preseason and the Celtics won that one 113-111 in Toronto.
The Celtics are looking for their first home win of the season in this game. They are 0-3 at home and 4-3 on the road. They lost their last game after winning the previous two. The Raptors are 2-5 at home and a perfect 4-0 on the road. They lost their last 2 games. This game begins a stretch of 8 out of 9 games on the road for the Raptors. The Celtics have one more at home after this game and then head out on for 3 in a row on the road.
The Raptors are playing in the first of back to back games and will play the 76ers in Philadelphia on Thursday night. The Celtics will play again on Friday at home vs the Bucks and then back to back at Cleveland on Saturday. The Celtics have been off since Saturday while the Raptors have been off since Sunday so both teams are rested and should be ready for the rematch.
Both teams will look a little different than they did in that first game on October 22. The Celtics will be without Jaylen Brown who injured his hamstring in the game against the Heat. He is expected to miss 1-2 weeks. Dennis Schroder is expected to start in his place. Sam Houser has been called up from the Maine Celtics to give them more depth on the wing. Hauser averaged 22 points and 6.5 rebounds in Maine’s two wins last week. Romeo Langford missed Saturday’s game with a non-covid illness but is expected to play in this game.
Pascal Siakam missed the Raptors first 10 games and he missed the first meeting between these two teams. He returned to play in Sunday’s loss to the Nets. The Raptors’ game notes have him starting at center in place of Precious Achiuwa, who started at center before Siakam returned. Khem Birch is expected to miss this game with swelling in his knee. Yuta Watanabe has yet to suit up this season and will miss this game with a calf injury.
Probable Celtics Starters
Jaylen Brown (hamstring) out
Sam Hauser (called up)
Probable Raptors Starters
Yuta Watanabe (calf) out
Khem Birch (knee) out
Jayson Tatum vs OG Anunoby
Anunoby is leading the Raptors with 20.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals. He is shooting 41.9% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. Jayson Tatum needs to step up with Jaylen Brown out. He seemed to get back on track against Dallas with 32 points on 63.4% shooting. They will need him to play well in this one on both offense and defense if they hope to get their first home win.
Marcus Smart vs Fred VanVleet
VanVleet is averaging 18.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He is shooting 43.3% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc. Marcus Smart has been up and down this season so far and is coming off a loss in Dallas where he made a key error at the end and the Celtics will need him to shake that off and play tough defense in this one and also be sure the offense is on track.
Al Horford vs Scottie Barnes
Barnes, the 4th pick in this year’s draft, is an early candidate for Rookie of the Year. He is one of the reasons that the Raptors are off to a good start this season, averaging 16.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 52.4% from the field and 20% from beyond the arc. He is also proving to be a very good defender. Al Horford has been consistently good for the Celtics and they will need him to continue his strong play in this one.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the key to winning. The Celtics have struggled on offense this season and will definitely miss Jaylen Brown’s 25.6 points per game. The Celtics are 12th with a defensive rating of 106.3 while the Raptors are 11th with a defensive rating of 105.2. If the Celtics hope to win this game and if they hope to contend this season, it will have to be with defense first. They have shown some progress on the defensive end but will need to make defense a priority every game to win.
Rebound - The Raptors average 46.3 rebounds per game (9th) while the Celtics average 45.5 rebounds per game (17th) In the Raptors 32 point win over the Celtics earlier this season, Toronto out-rebounded the Celtics 60-42 and they pulled down 21 offensive rebounds. The Celtics can’t let that happen again if they want to win this game. The Raptors are 4th in the league with 15.3 second chance points per game. Much of rebounding is effort and hustle. The Celtics must put out more effort to beat the Raptors to rebounds.
Play Hard From Start to Finish - The Celtics have started off slow in some games and have had to put out a lot of effort to catch up and then come up short in the end. In other games they have gotten off to a big lead and then let up on their effort, allowing their opponents to come back and forge ahead for the win. The Celtics must come out with a strong effort to start and they have to play hard for the entire game until the final buzzer with no let up.
Move the Ball Carefully - The Celtics need to move the ball to get the best shot and to keep the Raptors’ defense off balance. They need to limit iso’s and hero ball. But, they must move the ball carefully because the Raptors are 7th in the league with 19.5 points off turnovers per game and if the Celtics get sloppy, the Raptors will make them pay.
Home Game - The Celtics should be stronger at home but they have started off 0-3 at home this season. The Raptors, on the other hand are 4-0 on the road. The Celtics need to use the cheers of the fans as motivation to play hard and to stay focused. They have to make opponents uncomfortable in the Garden and give their best effort to protect their home court.
Revenge - The Celtics were embarrassed in that first game against the Raptors. They need to remember that embarrassment and come out with a chip on their shoulders and ready to play their hardest to avenge that loss and get a win in this one.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. Some crews call the game tight and others let them play. This year, especially, the refs are calling games differently and offensive players especially have to get used to the way the games are called. They have to avoid complaining about calls and non-calls and focus on adjusting to the way the refs are calling the game.