Matt Tierney - Raptors.com
Toronto (46-21) returns home for a Friday night clash with the Boston Celtics (39-29) on Sportsnet One. The Raptors are coming off a hard fought overtime victory last night against the Pacers in Indiana. Boston got St. Patrick's day off after they suffered their third-straight defeat, losing at home to OKC Wednesday night.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Isaiah Thomas – The heart and soul all year for this Celtics team has been Thomas. Since his trade from Phoenix, the University of Washington alum has been a revelation in Boston. Thomas’ production has not slowed down either. He's averaging 28 points, four assists and three rebounds in the month of March. Despite some recent struggles, the Celtics are firmly entrenched in the playoff picture thanks in large part to the play of their All-Star point guard.
DeMar DeRozan</strong – Speaking of All-Stars…Toronto’s shooting guard is putting up big numbers of his own this month. Averages of 30 points, five rebounds and three assists have helped the Raptors to a 7-2 record in March. DeRozan has had success in the two meetings with Boston this season (29p, 6a, 5r) and should see plenty of the ball with one of the Celtics best defenders, Jae Crowder, not expected to play due to injury.
BEASTS OF THE EAST
For a long time there has been a disparity between the East and the West. The Western Conference consistently had 8-10 teams with winning records where there were multiple teams in the Eastern Conference Playoffs who had lost more games than they won.
So far this 2015-16 regular season there has been a shift in the balance of power with nine teams in the East currently at or above .500. There also isn’t much separating the two conferences head-to-head with the season series sitting at 206-193 in favour of the West.
Getting results against teams from the West is always a positive however what’s most important is taking care of business versus opponents in your own conference.
After last night’s victory over the Pacers, Toronto sits at an impressive 31-11 against the East with four of those losses coming to one team (Chicago).
The Raptors currently sit in second place and only two games behind Cleveland for the #1 seed. They are also a franchise-best 25 games above .500 and en route to their first 50 win season.
While Dwane Casey and his staff maintain they are always striving to improve, this team has developed a reputation as not only one of the top teams in their conference, but the entire NBA.