Watch It! - Celtics at Raptors
Here are five things to watch out for during tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre.
Brad Stevens’ Debut
Tonight will be Brad Stevens’ real NBA debut on the sidelines (let’s discount the preseason). He’ll finally have the opportunity to use the starting lineup and rotation that he has envisioned. He’ll finally be able to coach his players in a game that they care about winning. That being said, Stevens isn’t too concerned with getting caught up in the moment.
“When I coached my first game as a head coach that was a little bit different,” Stevens said on Monday. “Being a head coach and having a chance to do eight dress rehearsals has probably eased the nerves.”
Stevens' nerves may have been eased, but you can bet that they haven't been totally erased heading into the game. The hope is that they will subside quickly, allowing the coach to get to work and lead his team to a victory.
Wings versus Wings
This game is all about the wings. The Celtics will are likely to start two of their best players at shooting guard (Jeff Green) and small forward (Gerald Wallace). Toronto will counter with DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay.
Stevens has said that he likes the combination of Green and Wallace because of the versatility they bring to the table. Each player can essentially defend positions 2 through 4, all while creating mismatches at the other end with their superior athleticism. The problem tonight, however, is that DeRozan and Gay are in the same category.
Toronto’s star duo combined to average 37.6 points a night during their 33 games together last season. They were low-efficiency shooters in 2012-13, but their percentages increased dramatically during this preseason. The responsibility of slowing those players down, all while providing a punch on offense, will fall on Green and Wallace.
Olynyk Returns Home
Stevens won’t be the only key Celtic making his NBA debut. Rookie Kelly Olynyk will be, too.
Olynyk will try to shake off the nerves as he plays in his first NBA regular season game in his hometown of Toronto. He’ll play the game in front of his parents and as many friends as he can get into the game.
The native Canadian already had an opportunity to break the seal in Toronto with a preseason game on October 16. He told Celtics.com on Friday that his nerves will be a bit calmer considering the fact that he’s already played there. Still, though, this is his true NBA debut on a court he grew up watching. He’ll need to drown out the noise and concentrate on the task at hand.
Potential Trouble with Bigs
Vitor Faverani is likely to start at center for the Celtics in his NBA debut, but beyond him, Boston lacks big bodies.
That fact could result in Boston struggling to cope with the size that Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas, who is one of the biggest bodies in the league, brings to the table. He is listed at 6-foot-11 but plays much larger. In two exhibition games against Boston, he averaged 10.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 2.0 blocks while shooting 77.8 percent from the field.
Boston will hold out hope that Faverani, the team’s biggest body, can contain Valanciunas in the paint. The other options tonight are Olynyk and Kris Humphries.
Boston showed in the preseason that its offense will lead to a lot of 3-point attempts. The team averaged 23.4 long-range shots per game during the preseason, which would have ranked fourth in the NBA last season.
Just because the number of 3s has risen does not mean that the Celts have no conscience from behind the 3-point line. Stevens wants his guys to fire it up, but only when they see a quality look at the hoop.
“I believe that you just take good shots,” Stevens said. “It’s easy to say what a good shot is going to be when you’re standing out here by yourself in the gym, but I think it’s a lot tougher when teams are out there.”
In other words, Stevens wants the Celtics to take the best shots that the opposing team presents to them. The Celtics will take them, now they just need to make them. Boston shot just 29.0 percent from 3-point range during the preseason. An average in the mid- to upper-30s would be much more conducive to knocking off the Raptors Wednesday night.