Road momentum: Boston Celtics @ Toronto Raptors preview

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Mention the Raptors, and there is little else that comes to the mind outside of their latest acquisition – Rudy Gay. How will he change the game the way flows?

Fact: The Raptors have won 3 of their last 10 games, going 2-6 at home.


Game time: 7 Feb 2013, 1100hrs AEDT

Watch on: NBA League Pass

Roster changes:

1. Rajon Rondo is out for the season with a torn ACL.

2. Jared Sullinger is out for the season after his back operation.

3. Andrea Bargnani is questionable with his right arm injury (torn elbow ligament, strained wrist) but will likely return in the game.

4. Landry Fields is set to miss the game (back spasms).

Defense

Rudy Gay is going to give the Raptors’ offense a much-needed boost. Averaging 17.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 2.6 APG in the Grizzlies this season, he is beginning to find his rhythm in Toronto. In their last game against Miami, he put up 20 points on 11 of 23 attempts along with 4 rebounds and 2 assists. Not too far from his Memphis season average, as you can see. Will Pierce expend too much energy on containing an aggressive wing attacker like Gay? I’m hoping for Jeff Green to be the primary defender instead of Pierce, but if the Raptors decide to leave Gay in the starting lineup the way they did in the last game, it’s not going to happen.

Another concern is the dynamic duo on the backcourt – Lowry and DeRozan. With Fields out and Calderon traded, Lowry is definitely getting the starting nod. Lowry has always been a high energy offensive-minded guard. Couple him with a dynamic scorer like DeRozan and we might have problems on defending dribble pentration. Expect Bradley and Lee to be pulling a full load with these two in the starting lineup. Together, Lowry and DeRozan combine for 30.7 PPG, a significant chunk of scoring. That being said, expect the Raptors to miss Calderon’s absence and continue to face teething issues on passing.

Another thought: will Bargnani’s return (16 PPG) swing the score in the Raptors’ favour? I like to think that KG is more than capable of handling Bargs, who is not a particularly efficient scorer to begin with.

Will the C’s be able to contain second chance points? Amir Johnson is performing excellently on rebounding this season, but the absence of Ed Davis should mean a big hit on their rebounding –Davis averaged 6.7 RPG this season– which could be a big swing for the rebounding-deficient Celtics, especially after Sully’s loss.

Offense

I am going to stick to the same old game plan until something changes. We run the Pierce-is-a-point-forward offense and keep the ball sharing up. Everyone touches the ball, everyone is happy, someone is open and someone scores. Rinse and repeat.

The only two concerns I have:

  1. The amount of wear and tear on Pierce, because he is now going to have to do a bit of everything for the team, from distributing the ball to rebounding to scoring. His condition is of utmost importance right now, as is KG’s.
  2. Offensive meltdown: this problem still exists, and we are not going to get any comfortable wins with ice cold stretches where no one scores, and it ends up being Pierce or KG having to bail the game out. Consistent scoring is a work in progress at this moment, and we can only hope that season experience and increased game minutes can make a difference. Until then, it’s all about getting defensive stops, even if scoring droughts occur. In case anyone forgot, this is where Rondo always came through, especially in the postseason.

A quick road game, and it’s back to the Garden for the Lakers after. I’m hoping we get a good W to keep the momentum rolling, but it could very well swing the other way. It all depends on whether the team continues to come out with the same fighting spirit.

Dinosaur hunting time gents, let us not be careless.

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