Archive for the ‘Boston Celtics’ Category

Kyle Lowry blowing by Steve Nash is something we hope to see at the ACC on January 20

In one of the more anticipated days of the summer for basketball junkies, the NBA announced its’ 2012-2013 schedule on Thursday, and as usual, there are some games that obviously stand out from the rest.

While I doubt the Raptors are featured in many, if any, of those games for the casual NBA fan, we’re here to cater to Raptors fans. And with that, here are the games we think you should circle on the calendar:

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Game No. 60: Raptors 84, Celtics 79

As Scott pointed out in his game thread on Friday, the Raptors were as close to Dead On Arrival as you can get in the NBA. They headed into a game against the hottest team in the NBA and a surefire playoff team closing in on third place in the Eastern Conference without Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless, and had Linas Kleiza and Amir Johnson banged up. Not to mention the fact that they would probably need significant contributions from some D-Leaguers.

It was safe to assume that loss no. 40 was on the way.

So much for that. The Raptors somehow managed to battle through the aforementioned adversity and a hideous first half to knock off the Celtics, and beat Boston twice in a season for the first time in five years. After beating the Celts just twice in four seasons between 2007-08 and 2010-11, the Raps have beat them twice in the last two months.

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- It was hard to tell whether the Raptors just worked hard enough to earn the win, or if the Celtics just laid a big enough egg to earn the loss, but I’ll say it was a little bit of both. There’s no doubt that the Raps outhustled and outfought Boston, pretty much from start to finish. But from the Celtics’ perspective, they limited Toronto to just 30 first half points and played three players that are better than anyone wearing a Raptors jersey, so this loss was as much them failing to go for the jugular as it was the Raptors playing over their heads. Midway through the fourth quarter, when the Raptors’ lead hit double-digits, you could see the Celtics flip the switch and “turn it on.” Five minutes of good basketball was nearly enough to steal the game, and if they had that switch on for the whole game, this probably would have been the blowout and dud we were all expecting.

2- A potential positional battle between Amir Johnson and Ed Davis has been the topic of debate here at RaptorBlog this week, but on Friday night, both big men turned in solid performances. Amir started at power forward and put up 10 points, nine rebounds, two blocks, an assist and a steal in 40 minutes. Ed came off the bench and added four points while grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds in 29 minutes. The two were particularly good when on the court together in various stretches. It’s been a rare sight to see both Johnson and Davis play well on the same night this season, and it was a welcomed sight on Friday.

3- The Raptors’ 10-day guys continue to impress. Justin Dentmon didn’t look that great in 15 minutes, but he held his own and hit a couple of big shots in the fourth quarter. Alan Anderson and Ben Uzoh, on the other hand, continue to look like potential NBA-ers next season. Anderson gave the Raptors 30 solid minutes (and started again) at the three, posting 12 points, four assists, a steal and a block. Uzoh was definitely the most impressive of the three, putting up a nice looking line of eight points (on 4-of-9 shooting), eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and just one turnover in 33 minutes as Toronto’s starting point guard. I doubt any of these guys will be logging big minutes for an NBA team on a consistent basis next season, but Anderson and Uzoh have performed pretty well since joining the Raptors last month, and I wouldnt be surprised if they’re at least playing themselves into jobs for next year. Uzoh, especially, impressed me with his on-ball defence and his quickness in penetrating Boston’s defence in this one.

4- One guy who wasn’t a bright spot for the Raptors in this game was James Johnson, who continues to struggle re-establishing himself in the lineup. I really hoped that Dwane Casey’s benching of Johnson last week would light a fire under him and spark him to continue to improve his game, as he had by leaps and bounds in the last few months. Instead, James is averaging four points and five rebounds while shooting under 20 per cent (6-of-31) in 18 minutes per game since returning to the lineup on Sunday. Friday night against the Celtics had to be rock bottom, as Johnson played just six minutes, collected two points and a rebound, and missed all three of his field goal attempts. Worst of all, he looked absolutely uninspired and defeated on the court. Hopefully Johnson can show us something, but more importantly, show Dwane Casey and the coaching staff something, over the final six games of the season, because I’m starting to believe he may not have as secure a place in the future plans as we all thought he did.

5- Okay, so this is a completely unrelated to basketball thought, but just once, I’d like the Raptors’ game operations staff (or whoever is in charge of these things) to pick an entrance song for the Raptors starting lineups at the beginning of the season, and stick with that music for the duration of the season. If you recall way back in December, in my thoughts on the home opener, I pointed out the obviously positive crowd reaction to Drake’s “Headlines” when the music hit. It was definitely the most positive reaction I can remember to Raptors’ entrance music in years, and I remember thinking, maybe this year they’ll actually stick with something. Instead, I think we’re on the third or fourth different song this season, and they just continue to get worse. On Friday night, the Raptors came bouncing out to Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling,” a song I have no problem with, but one that doesn’t exactly scream sports pump-up tune. There was absolutely no energy in the building while the Toronto players came out, and I honestly believe minute details like the tone of the music can make a noticeable difference in that energy level. Let’s hope that for next season, the team comes up with some great entrance music, and sticks with it for 41 home games. If I remember correctly, the Raptors haven’t done that since they were coming out to this.

6-Speaking of crowd energy, I still thought the overall energy in the Air Canada Centre was impressive. Given that the season is now officially a write-off, that the upstart Blue Jays were in town for just their fourth home game of the season (and I’ll admit I was following the Jays game on my phone for stretches of this game) and that in general, people probably have a lot better things to do with a few hours on a Friday night in April, I was expecting a bit of a disappointing crowd turnout against the Celtics. Instead, 17,270 people showed up (and the price of tickets for a Celtics game is higher than most games) and actually cheered loudly for their lowly Raptors. The first half was a little dead, but once the game actually resembled something close to NBA competition in the third quarter, the large gathering woke up, and created a pretty good second half atmosphere for such a meaningless contest. I know I’ve said it countless times this season, but I honestly can’t wait until this team is playing meaningful basketball again, and the ACC faithful can reassert themselves as some of the best fans in the NBA.

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 35 Min, 22 Pts, 4-14 FG, 1-3 3PT, 13-13 FT, 2 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 TO

Celtics Player of the Game: Paul Pierce – 34 Min, 18 Pts, 6-15 FG, 3-7 3PT, 3-3 FT, 8 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 TO

Once again, if you haven’t listened yet, check out our latest installment of RaptorBlog Radio, as we were joined by Jerryd Bayless for a quick chat about his season and his future with the Raptors.

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Ben Uzoh, DeMar DeRozan, Alan Anderson, Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray
Boston: Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass, Kevin Garnett

Injury report

Toronto: Jose Calderon and Linas Kleiza will be game-time decisions, while Andrea Bargnani and Jerryd Bayless are out for the season.

Boston: Ray Allen will sit out tonight’s game with a sore ankle.

With the league-leading four-game winning streak and nine wins in their last 11 games, the Boston Celtics are the hottest team in the NBA right now. Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce are playing their best basketball of the season, and the Celtics are making a strong push to catch the Indiana Pacers for third overall in the Eastern Conference. It’s safe to say that many of us wrote this team off too soon… yet again.

As for the Raptors, it was announced today that Andrea Bargnani is out for the season, which is good news for Tank Nation and should allow Ed Davis to get some extended playing time over the final seven games. Tonight is basically an automatic loss, and there shouldn’t be much risk of winning any more games until the Raptors face the Nets in the final game of the season.

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In case you missed it, we talked to Jerryd Bayless about his future with the Raptors on the latest episode of RaptorBlog Radio yesterday.

Game No. 28: Raptors 86, Celtics 74

As Scott pointed out in his game thread, the Celtics had beat the Raptors by a combined 59 points in their first two meetings, so despite the fact that the old-timer Celtics were coming off of an overtime loss to the Lakers on Thursday night, no one expected the Bargnani-less and Bayless-less Raps to hang with the Celts, let alone beat them.

So much for that. The Raptors jumped on the Celtics early and never trailed in a wire to wire victory.

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- What a start. After going 14 straight games without winning a first quarter, the Raptors have now won two straight opening frames, and did so in dominating fashion on Friday night. The young Raptors jumped on the older, fatigued Celtics from the tip, jumping out to a 16-point lead with some infectious energy on both ends of the floor. Eight minutes into the ball game, the Raptors had a 14-2 advantage in points in the paint and were holding Boston to just 25 per cent shooting. When it was all said and done, the Celtics matched their lowest scoring first quarter of the season (14), and Doc Rivers was hilariously steaming.

2- Despite a great start for the Raptors, the first half overall was a dud for basketball fans. The Raptors came crashing back to earth in the second quarter and easily could have lost their lead, but luckily for them, the Celtics were just as bad. That second quarter was one of the worst quarters of basketball I’ve seen this season in any game. At one point, both teams combined to turn the ball over on five straight possessions. By the time the comedy of errors was over, the teams had combined for 21 turnovers in the first half and were shooting just 28-of-72.

3- Is DeMar finding his game again? DeRozan’s month-long slump was well publicized, but it seems that he may finally be putting it behind him and getting back on track. During his rough patch, he was never able to build on one good performance and put a string of good games together. All the more reason why his 21 points on seven-of-13 shooting against the Celtics just two days after 25 points on nine-of-18 shooting against the Bucks was encouraging. In fact, it’s the first time since early January, right before his slump began, that DeRozan has put together back-to-back 20-point games. Since exploding for 27 points against the Nets on January 29, DeRozan is averaging 17.6 points on 45 per cent shooting over his last eight games and is going to the line an average of 7.4 times per game.

Perhaps the best indication that DeRozan is finally climbing out of this funk is this – Four of DeMar’s nine 20-point games this season have come during this eight game stretch.

4- From DeRozan’s good game to the down right horrible game of Anthony Carter. When the Raptors signed Carter in December, I was fine with the move. A one-year deal for a veteran point guard who could serve as a mentor to a young team and step in when needed seemed right. While A.C. may very well be that veteran leader in the locker room, he is far from anything positive on the court. I didn’t expect him to be great, or even above average, but I thought he could at least look competent in a few minutes of burn when called upon. To date, Carter is shooting just 35 per cent and runs Toronto’s offence at a rate that makes Darrick Martin look like he deserves a spot in our Ultimate Raptors Rankings. Hopefully tonight was rock-bottom for Carter, as the 36-year-old finished with zero points (on 0-for-5 shooting), one assist, two turnovers and was a minus-15 in 11 minutes of action. He also threw an alley-oop pass that failed to make it past the restricted circle and landed comfortably in a Celtics’ player’s arms. Tank Nation, indeed.

5- As good as Jose Calderon has been this season, the point guard position is still one of many areas the Celtics have a clear advantage over the Raptors. Naturally, you would assume that Calderon would have to at least come close to competing with Rajon Rondo if the Raptors ever have a chance against Boston. On Friday night, Calderon did more than compete with the younger, faster Rondo, he flat out took him to school. While Rondo fumbled and bumbled to just five points (on 2-of-10 shooting), seven assists and five turnovers, Calderon lit him up for 17 points (on 7-of-12 shooting), 14 assists and zero turnovers.

In his last two games, Calderon has 29 assists compared to just one turnover. It’s these kind of stretches that give some Raps fans hope that Calderon can bring back valuable assets in a trade, and others’ hope that he’ll still be in Toronto’s future plans.

6- As most of you are well aware, the Celtics have used the Raptors as punching bags during the “Big Three” era in Boston, and while the Raps had mustered two wins in 19 tries heading into this game, I think we can all agree that this victory had a much different feel. As you may recall, the other two wins came in games that were decided in the final minute and final possessions. This was really the first time in five seasons, and the first time ever against the Celtics’ Big Three (now “Big Four”), that the the Raptors have handedly defeated them.

In many ways, an undermanned Raptors team bullied the bullies. Maybe it was just another sign that the Celtics are getting old, maybe it was nothing more than an anomaly in this helter-skelter 66-game season, but I must say, Tank Nation or no Tank nation, it was pretty sweet to watch unfold.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jose Calderon – 38 Min, 17 Pts, 7-12 FG, 1-3 3PT, 2-3 FT, 4 Reb, 14 Ast, 1 Stl

Celtics Player of the Game: Kevin Garnett – 29 Min, 17 Pts, 6-9 FG, 5-6 FT, 8 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray
Boston: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal

Injury report

Toronto: Andrea Bargnani and Jerryd Bayless are both out.

Boston: Sasha Pavlovic and Avery Bradley are questionable for tonight, Keyon Dooling and Jeff Green are out.

Will the Celtics be fatigued tonight after their one-point loss to the Lakers in overtime last night? Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo each played over 40 minutes, so the Raptors have to hope they’re a step slow tonight if they’re going to have a shot at beating them for the first time this season. The Celtics have already notched two regular season and two pre-season wins over the Raptors, and the regular season victories were by a combined margin of 59 points.

Prior to last night’s OT setback, the Celtics had won five straight games and eight of their last 10. I think it’s safe to say that we wrote them off too soon, yet again. I think I might call them the Boston Voorhees from now because they just… won’t… die. If you watched the Raptors fail to score over 75 points in each of their previous two games in Boston, you know that the Celtics’ defensive intensity is still on point.

Based on this James Johnson quote from the ESPN preview of this game, we might see a more inspired performance from the Raptors compared to the two previous lackluster efforts: “They’ve been beating us since the preseason so it’s getting old. They’re not just beating us but beating us bad. It’s time for us to buckle down. We definitely need to come out flying and treat this game like it’s Game 7. We can’t go out like we’ve been going out against Boston.”

Random thoughts…

  • One guy who hasn’t gotten caught up in “Linsanity”: Kobe Bryant