Game Preview: Raptors at Celtics
While it's been nearly six years since the Toronto Raptors won in Boston, they could have the edge this time around. Looking to increase their Atlantic Division lead, the surging Raptors try to hand the Celtics a defeat Wednesday night.
Toronto (19-17) has dropped 19 of 21 road matchups against the Celtics (13-26), including 10 straight by an average of 16.3 points since pulling out a 114-112 victory Jan. 23, 2008. This season's team, though, hasn't looked much like the Raptors of old.
Toronto has won three in a row after easily getting by Milwaukee 116-94 on Monday. Kyle Lowry scored 23 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 17 with 10 rebounds for the Raptors, who have outscored opponents by 19.7 per game during their winning streak.
"This Toronto team, they're a good team," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "They're solid across the board at every position. Their bench is a very productive bench. They really get after you. They've got guys that can make shots.
"Right now they're certainly a different team than they've been in the last two or three years. They've added some real solid pieces that give them a lot of stability. They're very, very deep."
Toronto is 12-4 since newcomers John Salmons, Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez and Chuck Hayes debuted after coming over from Sacramento in the Rudy Gay trade. The Raptors have held opponents to an average of 88.5 points during an 8-2 stretch. "Since the trade, I think everyone has been buying more into defense, concentrating on more than worrying about outscoring opponents," said Patterson, averaging 14.8 points off the bench over the last six games.
"Everyone is buying into the system, everyone is moving the ball on the offensive end. Whenever we talk and communicate on the defensive end, we have nights like we had (Monday)."
As Toronto has moved atop the Atlantic, the Celtics have relinquished that spot in the past month and now could fall into last place if they lose Wednesday while Philadelphia wins.
Boston has surrendered an average of 106.1 points during a nine-game losing streak, its longest since dropping a franchise-record 18 straight in 2007.
"This is hard to go through, this is unenjoyable to go through, but it doesn't mean there's not growth," coach Brad Stevens said. "It's not consistent all the time, but it doesn't mean there's not growth on the individuals' parts."
The Celtics saw their struggles continue during Monday's 104-92 loss to Houston. Avery Bradley posted 24 points and former Raptors guard Jerryd Bayless added 17 off the bench, but leading scorer Jeff Green finished with four on 2-of-10 shooting. Boston was limited to 37.6 percent from the field, going 3 of 17 from 3-point range.
"We're competitive, and when you're competitive you always find a way to stay positive. Just try to find a way to win," forward Jared Sullinger said. "This team is fighting to the end. As you can see we fight every game, we are just coming up short. Have to fight harder the next game and come out with a 'W'."
Green, averaging 15.8 points, said he expects to play despite spraining his shoulder against the Rockets. Boston suffered a season-opening 93-87 loss at Toronto on Oct. 30 despite 25 points from Green.
Raptors forward Tyler Hansbrough is uncertain to be available after missing six straight with an ankle injury.
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is nearing a return from a torn ACL, but he isn't likely to face Toronto.