Pregame Post-Ups: Raps' Depth, Skill Pose Different Challenge

Friday, October 19 - Celtics at Raptors

Pregame – Toronto's Depth and Skill Pose Hefty Challenge to C's D

TORONTO – After a lackluster preseason, Boston’s stout defense finally reappeared during its opening-night win over the 76ers. Maintaining that trend during tonight’s matchup with the Raptors will be a hefty challenge.

Toronto’s lineup has many things that Philadelphia’s does not. The list is highlighted by depth and shooting ability.

Philadelphia’s roster, albeit a bit shorthanded for the season opener, is very starter-heavy. There is only one bench player on its active roster, J.J. Redick, who is a skilled scorer.

The Raptors are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Their bench is loaded with talent that affects the game at both ends, and Brad Stevens has taken notice for quite some time now.

“Last year, we were sitting in these meetings before (facing Toronto), and they had two All-Stars and a bunch of great players in their starting lineup,” said Brad Stevens, “and yet you come into the game realizing that the bench is the one changing the game every single night. So it just tells you how deep they are.”

A legit 10-deep, similar to Boston.

Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka, who are two well-established and well-respected bigs throughout the league, are now rotating for one of Toronto’s starting spots. Tonight, Ibaka will start, which means Valanciunas, who has averaged at least 11.3 points per game and 8.6 rebounds per game during each of the last five seasons, will come off the bench.

Toronto’s bench crew also boasts the likes of C.J. Miles, a career 36.1 percent 3-point shooter, Fred VanVleet, who scored 14 points during the team’s opener, O.G. Anunoby, who made a name for himself last postseason while going toe-to-toe with LeBron James, and Norman Powell.

There is no question that the Raptors are led by starters Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, but as Stevens said of their lineup, “It doesn’t stop.” Add a skilled group of starters, all of whom can shoot, defend and rebound, and you’ve got one heck of a challenge facing off against Boston’s defense.

Toronto’s starting crew of Lowry, Danny Green, Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Ibaka is a loaded group. It can shoot from long range, it can probe for drives to the paint, and it can finish around the basket. The same can be said for the group that will relieve the starters of their duties.

This Raptors offense is a whole different animal than the one Boston faced Tuesday night against Philadelphia. This offense is far deeper, and it’s far more skilled.

The Celtics came rediscovered their dominant defense and rode it to a win Tuesday night. Doing so again tonight will be a far greater challenge.

- Marc D'Amico

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