An Eastern showdown offers plenty of reasons to tune in
POSTED: Mar 18, 2016 10:27 AM ET
Bismack Biyombo has been a beast on the glass of late for the Toronto Raptors.
Every game matters with less than a month left in the regular season. The Toronto Raptors have designs on taking the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference from the Cleveland Cavaliers, but can't seem to get closer to them than their current two-game distance. The Raptors have won 11 of their last 14 games, but over their next seven games, they face three teams (Celtics, Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder) who are also trying to make noise in the playoff chase, too. As for the Celtics, they have lost three in a row and four of their last five games. Boston allowed 130 points in its Wednesday loss to the Thunder, the most it has allowed in a non-overtime game this season. Despite those struggles, the Celtics are tied with the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat record-wise (39-29) and all three teams sit a ½-game behind the No. 3-seeded Atlanta Hawks.
The Celtics enter tonight's matchup riding a three-game losing streak that started at the hands of the Houston Rockets on March 11. In that game, forward Jae Crowder landed badly on his left ankle during the second half and suffered a high ankle sprain that has forced him to miss the last two games. He's expected to miss at least another week, which forces the Celtics to find a way to win without a key piece of their defense. Boston has allowed 100-plus points in all three games during this losing skid. The Celtics have the fifth best defensive rating in the NBA, but will they be able to maintain that level without Crowder?
The Toronto Raptors' defensive rating has slipped since the All-Star break to 15th, but it remains in the NBA's upper crust overall (11th this season in defensive rating). However, one of the team's best-rated defensive lineups is one that features rebounder and shot-blocker Bismack Biyombo. The five-man unit of Biyombo, DeMar DeRozan, Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson and Terrence Ross has played 201 minutes together and boasts a 92.4 defensive rating. Biyombo is in the midst of a solid season, averaging career highs in points (5.6) and rebounds (8.2) despite playing the fewest minutes since his rookie season (22.7 per game). On Thursday against the Indiana Pacers, he pulled in a career- and franchise-best 25 rebounds and became the first Toronto player with two 20-rebound games in a season. Biyombo could have another big night tonight against Boston as the Celtics rank 26th in opponent rebounds allowed (46.3).
Nightly Notable: Bismack Biyombo
Bismack Biyombo scores 16 points on 5-6 shooting and has nine offensive rebounds, leading to a total of 25 boards to help Toronto top Indiana in overtime.
NBA.com staff reports