The Celtics host the Toronto Raptors for the second of 4 meetings this season. The Celtics won the first game 117-94 on November 11. They will meet one more time in Boston on December 29 and they will play one more in Toronto on January 15. The Celtics won the series 4-0 last season and have won their last 5 games against the Raptors. The Celtics are 67-41 overall all time against the Raptors. They are 27-27 all time in Toronto.
This is the Celtics second In Season Tournament game. They won their first IST game against the Nets 121-107 on Friday 11/10. This is the Raptors’ first In Season Tournament game. The Celtics are first in East Group with a 1-0 record. The Nets are 2nd at 2-1. The Bulls and Magic are 3rd and 4th with an 0-1 record. The Raptors are 5th with no games played so far.
This is the 2nd game of a 4 game road trip for the Celtics. They won the first game of the road trip over Philadelphia on Wednesday. They will face Memphis and Charlotte back to back before going home to face the Bucks. Toronto is on the 3rd game of a 4 game home stand. They are 1-1 so far, having beat the Wizards and then losing to the Bucks.
The Celtics are 4-2 on the road this season. They are 6-1 against Atlantic Division opponents, with the lone loss coming against the 76ers. The Celtics have won their last 4 games. The Raptors are 3-3 at home and 0-3 against Atlantic division opponents. They are coming off a loss to the Bucks. This is the Celtics’ 6th straight game against Atlantic Division teams.
Kristaps Porzingis missed Wednesday’s game with a knee contusion. He is questionable for this game as well. If he can’t play in this one, Al Horford should get another start at center. Jaylen Brown missed Wednesday’s game with a non-covid illness and is questionable for this game. If he is unable to play in this game, Sam Hauser will likely start in his place again. However, both Brown and Porzingis particiapted in shoot around and both hope to play in this game. Al Horford is listed as probable with a sprained toe.
For the Raptors, Gary Trent, Jr has missed the last 3 games with a foot injury, but he practiced on Thursday and is listed as probable for this game. OG Anunoby missed the last 2 games with a finger laceration that he sustained while doing household chores. He is listed as doubtful for this game. With Anunoby out, Gradey Dick started the last game and will likely get the start again if Anunoby is still out. Christian Koloko is out with an illness.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Neemias Queta (foot) out
Al Horford (toe) probable
Kristaps Porzingis (knee) questionable
Jaylen Brown (illness) questionable
Probable Raptors Starters
Otto Porter, Jr
2 Way Players
Ron Harper, Jr
Christian Koloko (illness) out
Gary Trent, Jr (foot) probable
OG Anunoby (finger) doubtful
Derrick White vs Scottie Barnes
Barnes is averaging 20.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. He is shooting 47.5% from the field and 37.5% from beyond the arc. The Celtics limited him quite well in their first meeting as he finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, well below his averages. He shot just 26.7% from the field and 22.2% from beyond the arc. He has been Toronto’s best and most consistent player and it will be important for the Celtics to defend him well.
Jayson Tatum vs Pascal Siakam
Siakam is averaging 18.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. He is shooting 46.8% from the field and 24% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics he finished with 17 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. He shot 35.3% from the field and didn’t attempt a 3. He is struggling somewhat on 3s but if left alone, he is very capable of hitting them.
Jrue Holiday vs Dennis Schroder
Former Celtic Dennis Schroder is playing well for the Raptors. He is averaging 14.8 points, 2.7 rebounds. 7.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He is shooting 41.3% from the field and 35.3% from beyond the arc. Against the Celtics in the first game, he finished with 14 points, 1 rebound 4 assists, and 1 steal while shooting 47.9% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the key to winning. The Celtics are 2nd with a defensive rating of 106.6 while the Raptors are 10th with a defensive rating of 110.6. If the Celtics hope to win this game it will have to be with defense first. The Celtics must try to keep them out of the paint as they average 52.9 points in the paint. The Celtics need to force them to play out of their comfort zone.
Rebound - The Raptors average 46.9 rebounds per game (6th) while the Celtics average 47.9 rebounds per game (1st). Rebounding is very important to limit second chance baskets and fast breaks. The Raptors are 3rd in the league with 15.3 fast break 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 48 Minutes - The Celtics need to start off strong and not allow the Raptors to build a lead to start the game. They also need to play hard throughout the game and not allow the Raptors to go on runs to either pull ahead or catch up. The Raptors hold opponents to 24.6 points in the 4th quarter, which is tops in the East. They are first with lowest opponent field goal percentage in the 4th quarter so the Celtics can’t afford to let up. They have to play hard right up until the final buzzer.
Move the Ball - The Celtics are 18th in the league with 25 assists per game. They play best when the ball is moving and players move to get open find the best shots. When the ball sticks, the offense is stagnant and the Celtics struggle to score. They need to make good passes and keep the ball moving rather than lapsing into hero ball.
Injuries - Three of the Celtics top 6 players are dealing with illness or injuries. Needless to say, if Kristaps Porzingis, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford can’t play, then it gets much tougher for the Celtics. They were able to beat the 76ers without Porzingis and Brown. If both are out again, can the Celtics depth come through again to pull out another win? If both Porzingis and Horford are out, that would make them very thin up front.
In Season Tournament - This is the Celtics 2nd In Season Tournament game and it is the Raptors first. Will the Raptors make an extra effort to win this game because of the tournament? Will the Celtics put extra emphasis on this game because of the tournament? We may see more effort and energy from one or both teams as they look to gain an edge on the other teams in the group.
Officiating - While rarely is officiating a reason for a win or a loss, it can always be an x-factor. Every game is called differently. Some games are called tightly and some games are allowed to be more physical. The Celtics have to adjust to the way the game is being called and focus on playing and not on the bad calls that are being made or not being made.