A week after thrashing the Brooklyn Nets at the Boston Garden, the Celtics return from a Texas road trip to hop back into Atlantic Division play. This time, Boston hosts the Toronto Raptors – last year’s division winner and the current leader at 3-1.
Texas wasn’t kind to the C’s. Boston lost by double-digits to Houston and Dallas jumped out to a 31-point first half lead before the Celtics came all the way back only to lose by five. Both games saw Boston fall way behind early in the game and Brad Stevens was not pleased with his team’s performance out of the gate after the loss in Big D. But the Celtics showed a lot of determination (and effectiveness) in Monday night’s game against the Mavericks after the first half. And Boston went 1-for-25 from the three-point arc in a 14-point loss to Houston, which doesn’t look so bad when you consider the abnormally awful shooting night the Celtics had. But anything that happened down in Texas goes out the window for tonight. The Celtics are one-point home ‘dogs against their biggest Atlantic Division challenge.
From a scoring perspective, the Raptors are awfully perimeter oriented, which doesn’t lead me to believe they will have a lot of success scoring the ball on Wednesday night. DeMar DeRozan leads the team in scoring and Kyle Lowry is second. DeRozan will likely be hounded by Avery Bradley, who has established himself as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Rajon Rondo will mark him. But the Celtics don’t just stop there with upper-echelon perimeter defenders. Marcus Smart has blown away those around the Celtics with his defensive ability as a rookie. With Smart in the rotation, along with Bradley and Rondo, the Celtics have a trio of terrific one-on-one guard defenders that will remain fairly fresh for the entire game. Evan Turner may also see some time on DeRozan.
As long as the Toronto guards stay inefficient, Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson will struggle to carry the burden on offense, which means the guards will have to keep shooting. Both Valanciunas and Johnson are decent complementary players, but don’t have any sort of playmaking abilities. It’s also important that neither are particularly imposing in the paint, which is what can hurt Boston’s smaller front line. Jared Sullinger should have no problem with the big Lithuanian. And he might actually get the better of the matchup between two guys with inside-out games. Kelly Olynyk should be able to stick with Johnson, who has turned into much more of a face-up forward over the last two seasons.
One through five, the Celtics seem to have the Raptors covered. Between their better bench and the home court advantage, I like Boston to win this game outright.
Free Pick: Boston +1
2014/15 NBA: 1-0 +1.00