The Celtics host their Atlantic Division rivals, the Toronto Raptors. Both teams are playing their second preseason game and both teams are coming off a win in their first game. These two teams split the series 2-2 last season with each team winning once at home and once on the road. Toronto beat the Jazz 114-82 on Sunday while the Celtics beat the Hornets 134-93.
Both teams bring back a core from last season and both have young players that they hope will take another step in their development. Nine of the 14 players that the Raptors have on guaranteed contracts are 6-foot-7, 6-foot-8 or 6-foot-9. They have been starting 6’8” Pascal Siakam at center and so I’m expecting the Celtics to go small once again with Derrick White starting at shooting guard with Jayson Tatum moving to power forward and Al Horford at center.
Both teams had big wins in their first preseason game but this game should give both teams more of a challenge. The Celtics are once again vowing to make tough defense their identity and the Raptors play better defense than the Celtics faced against the Hornets.
The Raptors spread out their minutes in their first preseason game with no player getting more than 18 minutes and 18 players getting at least 5 minutes of playing time. The Celtics played 4 players between 22 and 24 minutes and played 16 different players 5 minutes or more. Preseason gives coaches a chance to get their starters some minutes but also to evaluate the players on camp contracts and this game should be no different.
The Celtics have the same 3 players on the injured list as they did in the first game. Robert Williams (knee) and Danilo Gallinari (knee) are both out. Luke Kornet (ankle) is improving but is doubtful for this game. For the Raptors, Khem Birch (knee), Justin Champagnie (thumb) and Otto Porter, Jr (hamstring) are all questionable and are considered day to day.
Probable Celtics Starters
JD Davison (2 Way)
Mfiondu Kabengele (2 Way)
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Luke Kornet (ankle) doubtful
Robert Williams III (knee) out
Probable Raptors Starters
Jeff Dowtin (2 Way)
Ron Harper, Jr (2 Way)
Justin Champagnie (thumb) questionable
Khem Birch (knee) questionable
Otto Porter, Jr, (hamstring) questionable
Marcus Smart vs Fred VanVleet
VanVleet is always a threat to score and Marcus Smart needs to stay with him defensively, especially on the perimeter. He played just 9 minutes and had just 3 points in the Raptors’ first game and so he will likely have a big game in this one.
Jaylen Brown vs Scottie Barnes
Scottie Barnes is the reigning Rookie of the Year and the Raptors are expecting him to take a leap in his development this season. He finished Sunday’s game with 8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in 17 minutes. This should be a fun matchup to watch.
Al Horford vs Pascal Siakam
Siakam has been one of Toronto’s best players over the last few years and is likely to have another good season again. He finished Sunday’s game with 7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists in 15 minutes. With the Raptors likely to start small once again, I expect the Celtics to go small also.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning every single game. The Celtics looked solid on defense against the Hornets and hopefully we see another solid defensive effort in this game. The Celtics must be aggressive on defense and make playing team defense a priority in this game and in every game.
Rebound - Rebounding is also a key to winning every game. Much of rebounding is effort and hustle. The Celtics have to put out extra effort on the boards to prevent the Raptors from getting second chance points and extra possessions and to give themselves extra opportunities to score. The Raptors are a good rebounding team and had 61 rebounds in Sunday’s game. The Celtics finished with 56 rebounds on Sunday. They are going to have to work harder, especially on defensive rebounds, if they are going to win the battle of the boards.
Pace and Teamwork - The Celtics played with great pace against the Hornets and they need to run on every possession and move the ball without a lot of iso play and without a lot of dribbling around once again in this game. The Celtics had 41 assists against the Hornets and they need to keep up that kind of ball movement in every game this season. They are most effective when they keep the ball moving and also move without the ball.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics had 23 turnovers against the Hornets and they have to cut that number down. They can’t afford to give the ball away that many times if they want to give themselves a chance to win this game. Turnovers were a problem for the team last season, and hopefully they can find a way to solve that problem this season.
Preseason - It’s the preseason and both teams are still working on lineups and chemistry and conditioning. We may see limited minutes for the starters and also some creative lineups as both coaches look to evaluate the camp players. It may not be very pretty basketball, but then again, the Celtics may put together another good game, even with the camp players getting solid minutes.
Home Game - This is a home game and the fans are going to be excited to see their Celtics for the second time this season. The Celtics should get a boost from the home crowd and hopefully they will take protecting home court seriously in the preseason and all season long.