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Toronto Raptors (40-40) at Boston Celtics (55-25) Game #81 4/7/23

For the 2nd straight game the Celtics host the Toronto Raptors.

Toronto Raptors (93) Vs. Boston Celtics (97) At TD Garden Photo by Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

For the second straight game, the Celtics will host the Toronto Raptors. This is the 4th and final game between these two teams this season. The Celtics have won all 3 previous games. They won 116-110 on December 5 and 106-104 on January 21 with both of those games in Toronto. They won 97-93 on Wednesday in Boston. The Celtics are 65-42 overall all time against the Raptors and 39-14 in games played in Boston.

The Celtics are now locked into 2nd place in the East. They are 3 games behind first place Milwaukee. They are 3 games ahead of third place Philadelphia. The Celtics are 30-9 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Celtics are 32-18 against Eastern Conference opponents. They are 10-5 against Atlantic Division opponents. The Celtics are coming off a win in their last game against these same Raptors.

The Raptors are 9th in the East. They are 1 game behind 8th place Atlanta. They are 3 games behind 7th place Miami and 2 games ahead of 10th place Chicago. There is still a possibility that they could improve their play-in seeding if they can win their final 2 games and the Celtics beat the Hawks on Sunday. The Raptors are 14-26 on the road and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 25-25 against Eastern Conference opponents and 4-11 against Atlantic Division teams. They lost their last game.

Both of these teams have 2 games left to their season. The Celtics are locked into 2nd place with Milwaukee holding onto first place and home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Philadelphia is locked into 3rd place. The Celtics will host the Hawks on Sunday while the Raptors will host the Bucks on Sunday for their final game. If the Raptors stay in 9th place and win the play-in, they will face the Bucks in the first round. If they move up to 8th and win, they would face the Celtics in the first round.

Trying to figure out the players who will be out is getting tougher as the end of the season nears. Jayson Tatum and Al Horford should return for the Celtics. Derrick White (ankle), Malcolm Brogdon (back), Payton Pritchard (heel), and Marcus Smart (neck) are all questionable and will be a game time decision. If all of them are out, I really don’t know who will start or play the guard positions. This may be remembered as the JD Davison game. For Toronto, Otto Porter, Jr (foot) is out.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Grant Williams
Sam Hauser
Luke Kornet
Robert Williams III
Mike Muscala

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Mfiondu Kabengele

Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Derrick White (ankle) questionable
Malcolm Brogdon (back) questionable
Marcus Smart (neck) questionable
Payton Pritchard (heel)
Justin Champaignie (new) questionable

Head Coach
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Raptors Starters

Raptors Reserves
Precious Achiuwa
Delano Banton
Will Barton
Chris Boucher
Malachi Flynn
Christian Koloko
Joe Wieskamp
Thaddeus Young
Gary Trent, Jr

Two Way Players
Jeff Dowtin, Jr
Ron Harper, Jr

Otto Porter, Jr (foot) out

Head Coach
Nick Nurse

Key Matchups

Jayson Tatum vs Pascal Siakam
Siakam is averaging 24.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game this season. He is shooting 47.7% from the field and 32.7% from beyond the arc. In the first 3 games between the Celtics and Raptors this season, Siakam averaged 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists. He shot 55% from the field and 22.2% from beyond the arc. Slowing him down will be key. Tatum sat out the last game and so hopefully he has a big game in this one.

Jaylen Brown vs OG Anunoby
Anunoby is averaging 17.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.9 steals. In the first 3 games between these two teams, Anunoby averaged 12.3 points, 4 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.5 blocks. He played very good defense in the last game and will look to make things difficult for the Celtics in this game as well. The Celtics need to stay with him on defense because he is capable of hitting big shots.

Honorable Mention
Marcus Smart vs Fred VanVleet
VanVleet is averaging 19.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He is shooting 39.7% from the field and 34.5% from beyond the arc. In the first three games against the Celtics, he averaged 7.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.5 blocks. He shot 17.9% from the field and 11.1% from beyond the arc. He struggled in the last game against the Celtics and took the blame for the loss. I expect him to come out strong in this one.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense will always be the key to winning. The Celtics are 3rd with a defensive rating of 110.6 while the Raptors are 11th with a defensive rating of 113.1. If the Celtics hope to win this game it will have to be with defense first. The Raptors average 52.7 points in the paint per game and are shooting just 33.6% from three. The Celtics must try to keep them out of the paint and force them to play out of their comfort zone.

Rebound - The Raptors average 43.1 rebounds per game (16th) while the Celtics average 45.2 rebounds per game (7th) The Raptors are 2nd in the league with 16.5 second chance points per game and so rebounding is very important to limit those second chance baskets. Much of rebounding is effort and hustle. The Celtics must put out more effort to beat the Raptors to rebounds.

Take Care of the Ball - The Raptors don’t turn the ball over much. They are 1st in the league with 11.7 turnovers per game. The Celtics are 6th with 13.2 turnovers per game. But the Celtics have been known to go through spurts in the game where they turnover the ball on possession after possession. They must take care of the ball and limit their turnovers. The Raptors are 1st with 21.0 points off turnovers per game. If the Celtics get sloppy, the Raptors will make them pay. The Raptors are also 2nd with 17.8 fast break points per game and limiting turnovers will help in that area also.

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 some 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.

Home Game - The Celtics are at home once again and they need to use use the cheers of the fans as motivation to play hard and to stay focused. The Raptors are just 14-26 on the road and hopefully the distractions of travel and playing in front of a hostile crowd will give the Celtics an advantage. This is their second straight game in Boston and so they may be experiencing road fatigue as well.

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 calls that are being made or not being made.

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