Watch It! - Celtics at Raptors
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors meet at 7 p.m. tonight night at the Air Canada Centre.
Can Sully Do It Again?
We’re two days removed from the last time these teams met and Sullinger was the star performer of that contest. He scored 26 points on the night, including 19 in the fourth quarter alone. He helped to propel the C’s back into contention from a 15-point deficit in the final frame before Toronto held on for the win.
While the Raptors have gone 2-1 against the Celtics this season, they haven’t had any answers for the second-year big man. Sullinger enters tonight’s game with season averages of 25.5 points per game and 14.0 rebounds per game against Toronto. He has made 48.4 percent of his field goals and 62.5 percent of his 3s against the Raptors, including a 4-of-6 performance from long range on Wednesday.
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The Celtics should go to Sullinger early and often tonight because Toronto just can’t stop him.
Toronto’s bench was nearly nonexistent Wednesday night. Fortunately for the Raptors, that didn’t matter.
The trio of Terrence Ross, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan made head coach Dwane Casey forget about his bench by combining to score 67 points. All three players reached the 20-point barrier, with Ross’ 24 leading the way.
Ross, DeRozan and Lowry have been three of the biggest reasons why Toronto has turned itself into a top team in the Eastern Conference. Boston got a first-hand look at their improved play two nights ago.
Get Jonas into Foul Trouble
Jonas Valanciunas is quietly moving up the ranks of NBA centers. He’s in just his second year but has already become a double-double threat on a nightly basis.
Valanciunas put up 15 points and 14 rebounds against Boston on Wednesday night. He has grabbed at least 13 boards in three of his last four games and has also scored in double-figures in seven of his 12 games this month.
While Valanciunas is playing well, one negative aspect of his game continues to surface. He is extremely foul prone, as his 3.2 fouls per game is tied for the fourth-highest average in the NBA.
Boston only forced Valanciunas into committing two fouls on Wednesday and would benefit greatly from increasing that number tonight. Getting him off of the floor would help the C’s improve their play around the basket.
A Personal Challenge
Brad Stevens recently said that he gave Jeff Green a personal challenge on March 11 to step up and contain Pacers star Paul George. Boston’s coach may need to issue a similar challenge tonight to Green, Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley.
Toronto’s perimeter players carved up those three players on Wednesday. As we’ve already detailed, Ross, DeRozan and Lowry combined to score 67 points. That’s just 23 fewer than Boston’s entire team scored on the night.
That game is fresh in the minds of the Celtics, and in particular, the trio of Green, Rondo and Bradley. They must accept the challenge of stepping up on defense and containing Toronto’s top perimeter players.
Jeff Green’s Health
With the aforementioned challenge being issued, we cannot fail to mention that Green wasn’t himself on Wednesday. He only played 20 minutes while working through an injury.
“Jeff had a stiff neck and I thought he looked really uncomfortable out there,” Brad Stevens said after the game. “Yesterday he could hardly move it… He looked miserable, to be honest.”
Stevens went on to state that he would hold out hope that Green’s neck would heal prior to tonight’s game. The Celtics have issued no updates on his health since Stevens’ comments, so we’ll have to wait and see if Green can play pain-free tonight and bring more to the table than he did on Wednesday.