Watch It! – Raptors at Celtics
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.
One, Not Two
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were both All-Stars this season. They’ve also turned into one of the more dynamic one-two punches in the NBA.
The duo enters tonight’s game with a combined scoring average of 45.7 points per game. That’s the fourth-best scoring punch by two teammates in the league.
Unfortunately for Boston, it hasn’t been able to slow the duo down during any of its three matchups this season. Lowry and DeRozan have combined to score 47 and 48 points over their last two matchups against the C’s after scoring 37 during their early-season tilt. Lowry scored 32 when these teams met Friday night in Toronto. DeRozan, meanwhile, maxed out with 34 points against the C’s back on Jan. 20.
Allowing one of these players, rather than both, to reach the 20-point barrier would be a great boost to Boston. They'll want to shut down either Lowry or DeRozan, all while limiting the other to right around 20 points.
Tonight’s contest will be a getaway game for Boston, which has its longest road trip of the season peeking over the horizon. The C’s will take off Friday afternoon for Phoenix, where they will open up their five-game road trip Saturday night.
The Celtics have been fantastic at home this season, racking up a 24-12 record. They should enjoy the atmosphere at the Garden and take advantage of it tonight, because they won’t experience it again until April 6.
Raps Best in the East?
Toronto enters tonight’s game as the second seed in the Eastern Conference behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, it may indeed be the top team in the East.
The Raptors entered Jan. 6 with a 21-15 record and have gone 27-6 ever since. Cleveland, meanwhile, has gone 27-11. To put Toronto’s run into perspective, Golden State, which is on pace to record the best regular-season record in NBA history, has gone 30-5 during the same timespan.
Clearly, the Raptors found a rhythm in early January and they have been riding that wave for two and a half months. They are a team to be reckoned with.
Vibes Are Up
The Celtics aren’t on Toronto’s level from a record standpoint, but they aren’t miles behind. Boston has been one of the best teams in the East since the New Year and has found its groove after hitting a bump in the road earlier this month.
Two straight wins, though both were against low-quality opponents, have sent Boston back in the right direction following a stretch of four straight losses and five defeats overall during a six-game span. The C’s swept a back-to-back against Philadelphia and Orlando on Sunday and Monday, respectively, and did so with relative ease.
Positive vibes have definitely returned for this group. They’ve won two straight, and the hope is that they’ll be fully healthy within the next week or so with the possible return of Jae Crowder.
Thomas is Red-Hot
Isaiah Thomas has been one of the best scorers in the league all season long. This month, however, he has been especially great.
Thomas has ascended into the top echelon of scorers in the league by averaging 26.5 points per game over his 10 games in March. Only James Harden, Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, DeRozan and Stephen Curry have higher scoring averages during the month.
Improved shooting statistics have been the key to Thomas’ run. He has hit 47.8 percent of his shots and 42.6 percent of his 3s this month, compared to seasonal percentages of 42.8 from the field and 35.3 from long range.
Thomas scored 20 points on 7-of-16 shooting Friday night against the Raptors. Recent trends point toward him easily surpassing that number tonight.