at Boston Celtics (37-23) at Toronto Raptors (44-17)
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Regular Season Game #61, Road Game #30
TV: TNT, NBCSB, SN1
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub, 590 The Fan
Scotiabank Arena Probable Starters
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris
C: Al HorfordCeltics Reserves
Aron Baynes (foot) outTwo Way Players
P. J. DozierCoach
Brad StevensProbable Starters
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Danny Green
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Marc Gasol
Fred VanVleet Two Way Players
Fred VanVleet (thumb) out Game Notes
The Celtics will be looking to bounce back from two disappointing losses as they visit the Toronto Raptors. This is the 4th and final game between these two division rivals this season. The Celtics lead the series 2-1, winning both games in Boston and losing the first game on the road. This is the first of back to back games for the Celtics, with the Portland Trailblazers coming into Boston for a game on Wednesday.
The Celtics stood pat at the trade deadline but the Raptors made some moves, bringing in Marc Gasol and Jeremy Lin and trading Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, and CJ Milles.
The Raptors upgraded with Gasol and Lin and are working to integrate them into their rotation. Gasol started their last game and I'm assuming that he will be in the starting lineup again.
Both teams are coming off disappointing losses. The Celtics lost a close one to the Bucks and then lost to the 14 win Chicago Bulls, with both losses on the road. The Raptors had their seven game win streak snapped by the 9th place Orlando Magic in a game on their home court. Both teams will be looking to snap back and get back on the right track.
The Raptors are 2nd in the East, 2 games behind the first place Milwaukee Bucks and 6.5 games ahead of the Celtics. They are 8-2 in their last 10 games and 25-6 at home. The Celtics are in 5th place, 1 game behind 4th place Philadelphia and 3 games behind 3rd place Indiana. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games and 14-15 on the road.
Both teams are mostly healthy for this final game of the season series. The Celtics are still without Aron Baynes, who is getting closer to returning from the foot injury but isn't quite there yet. For the Raptors, they will be without Fred VanVleet, who is out with a thumb injury. Key Matchups
Jayson Tatum vs Kawhi Leonard
Leonard has been playing very well for the Raptors, averaging 26.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.9 steals per game. He averaged 31.7 points and 9.7 rebounds in the two games vs the Celtics this season. He is also a very good defender and Tatum will have his hands full on both ends of the court in this matchup.
Kyrie Irving vs Kyle Lowry
Lowry has given the Celtics problems in the past and so they need to pay particular attention to slowing him down. He is averaging 14.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 9.1 assists and 1.4 steals. Kyrie should be able to get his points against Lowry and so this should be a good matchup for the Celtics. Honorable Mention
Celtics Bench vs Raptors Bench
The Raptors' reserves average 51.6 points per game. Serge Ibaka has been coming off the bench for the Raptors and he came up big against the Celtics in the first 3 games, scoring 21, 21 and 23. The Celtics reserves must play tough defense along with contributing to the offense if the Celtics want to get a win. Keys to the Game
Defense has always been and always will be the key to winning. The Celtics have the 5th best defensive rating in the league at 105.9. The Raptors are 8th with a defensive rating of 107.5. They need to play particularly tough defense against the Raptors since they are averaging 114.1 points per game and are capable of putting up a lot of points in a hurry. The Celtics let their defense slip as they lost to the Bulls, but they have to make defense a priority once again if they hope to beat the Raptors on the road. Be Aggressive
The Celtics must be the more aggressive team. They have to be aggressive on defense, in going after loose balls, in crashing the boards, and just all around going all out. They have to aggressively attack the basket. They need to start the game with that aggressive attitude and be aggressive through the whole game with no let up. They absolutely can't let the Raptors be the more aggressive team.
The Celtics must crash the boards. They can't score if they don't have the ball. Much of rebounding is effort and desire. The Celtics have to be the team that puts out more effort from every player to go after rebounds. The Celtics are 18th in rebounds at 45.0 per game. The Raptors are 15th with 45.2 per game. The Celtics have to crash the boards and beat the Raptors to the rebounds if they want to get a win. Move the Ball Carefully
The Celtics need to move the ball and not lapse into hero ball. They have to make the extra pass and find the open man and the best shot. Against Chicago, the Celtics had 12 assists on 15 baskets in the first quarter but had just 14 assists on the final 30 baskets. They have to play team ball. They also have to focus and make careful passes as the Raptors are 5th with 18.1 fast break points per game and they will make the Celtics pay if they get sloppy. X-Factors On the Road
- The Celtics are on the road once again and playing in an arena where it is very difficult to get a win. The Raptors have won their last 7 games at home against the Celtics. The Celtics are going to have to be focused and not allow the distractions of the road stop them from playing their best ball. Effort
- Marcus Smart called the Celtics out for their lack of effort, especially on defense. He also questioned their toughness and fight. And, sadly, he was right. Each of the Celtics must step up his effort for every game, and not just the ones against contenders. They will need extra effort especially against a motivated Raptors team.