Celtics Look to Get Back on Track vs The Raptors

Boston Celtics (24‐7) at Toronto Raptors (11‐21)
Sunday, January 2
6:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #32 – Road Game #17
TV: CSNNE, TSN2,  LP-754
Radio:  WEEI, CJCL 
Air Canada Centre

The Celtics are facing the Raptors for the 3rd time this season.  They split the first two games with the Celtics losing 102-101 in Toronto and then 5 days later winning 110-101 in Boston. 

Don't expect the Raptors to feel sorry for the Celtics because of injuries.  The Raptors are also playing short handed with 2 players listed as out, 2 as questionable and one day to day.  Both teams could be missing 5 key players.  The Celtics had been expecting Rondo back for their last game but he wasn't ready yet and Doc said that he might also miss this game so we may or may not see Rondo in this game.  For the Raptors, their leading scorer, Andrea Bargnani has missed the past 3 games and is listed as day to day.   Both of these players could make a big difference for their team.

The Raptors are 3-7 in their last 10 games and are coming off a loss to the Rockets while the Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have lost 2 in a row and 3 of the last 4 games.  The Raptors are 7-9 at home while the Celtics are 11-5 on the road. 

In the Celtics last game, several players tried to do too much. most notably Big Baby, Ray and Pierce.  We saw too many players trying to score on iso's and too much hero ball.  They need to stay in their roles and play team ball.  They have to move the basketball to find the open man instead of each player looking for his own shot and trying to be the hero.   If they can do this, they should win this one. 

Probable Starters
PG: Nate Robinson  8.4 PPG   2.5 APG   0.4 SPG
SG:  Ray Allen  Ray Allen 16.8 PPG 3.3 APG .415 3P%
SF:  Paul Pierce 18.8 PPG 5.1 RPG 3.7 APG
PF: Glen Davis 12.0 PPG 5.7 RPG 0.4 BPG
C:   Shaquille O'Neal 10.4 PPG 5.5 RPG 0.9 BPG

Boston Bench Mob
Marquis Daniels
Luke Harangody
Von Wafer
Avery Bradley 
Jermaine O'Neal 

Kendrick Perkins (knee) out
Delonte West (wrist)  out
Rajon  Rondo (ankle) day to day
Kevin Garnett (calf)  out
Semih Erden (flu) day to day 

Probable Starters
PG:  Jose Calderon   10.0 PPG, 7,4 APG, 1.3 SPG
SG: DeMar DeRozan 13.8 PPG, 1.7 APG, .095 3P%
SF:  Linas Kleiza   12.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.0 APG
PF:  Amir Johnson   8.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG,  1.1 BPG
C:  Joey Dorsey   3.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 0.6 BPG 

Raptors Bench
Solomon Alabi
Leandro Barbosa
Ronald Dupree
Julian Wright
Ed Davis

Jerryd Bayless (ankle)  questionable
Sonny Weems (back) questionable
Reggie Evans (foot)  out
Peja Stojakovic (knee)  out
Andrea Bargnani (ankle, knee)  day to day

Key Matchups
Shaquille O'Neal vs Joey Dorsey
Andrea Bargnani has been out for the past three games and is questionable for this one.  If he can't go, the Raptors will start 6'8" Joey Dorsey at center.  Shaq should be able to get his shot off over Dorsey and give the Celtics the advantage.   However, if Bargnani is able to go, this could be a mismatch in the Raptors' favor.

Nate Robinson vs Jose Calderon
Nate is once again listed as the probable starter for this game.  Rondo will once again be a game time decision for this game.  If he can go, the PG match up moves in the Celtics favor, but Calderon has the height and experience advantage over Nate if Rondo can't go. 

Honorable Mention
Paul Pierce vs Linas Kleiza
Pierce admitted after the last game that he did not play well with just 12 points and 6 turnovers.  I expect a much better game from him in this one and he should be able to get past Kleiza to either get to the hoop or to set up his teammates.  If Pierce did take the last loss personally he could come up big for the Celtics in this one. 

Keys to the Game
Rebound -  The Celtics have got to crash the boards to prevent second chance points.  Rebounding takes effort and when they aren't winning the battle of the boards, they aren't putting the effort out in other areas either. 

Focus - The Celtics clearly lacked focus vs the Hornets and they must avoid these lapses against teams they should beat.  It's a bad habit to get into to play up or down to the competition.  Even short handed, the Celtics should have beaten the Hornets who had lost 7 in a row on the road.   The Celtics should beat the Raptors (who are just as short handed) unless they once again lack focus and allow the Raptors to hang around. 

Defense -  The Celtics must make defense their first priority in each and every game.  They have been playing defense in spurts and allowing teams to get leads or hang around and they think they can turn on the defense down the stretch.  Without KG, they just can't do that and they must play strong defense all game.  With the Raptors, they must particularly guard the perimeter. 

Take Care of the Ball - Turnovers have been a big problem in the last two games.  Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have been especially careless with the ball.  They must tighten up their ball handling and stop turning it over.  You can't win when your starters are turning the ball over 17 times.  

Injuries and Ubuntu 
Both teams are missing key players and both have one key player who is a game time decision.   If either Rondo or Bargnani can play, it would give their team an advantage.   The Celtics players must focus and resist the urge to play hero ball and try to do too much.  If they can remain focused and play team ball they'll come out on top.