Celtics start back to back to back set with the Raptors

Boston Celtics (34-24) at Toronto Raptors (20-39)
Friday, April 13
7:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #59 – Road Game #29
Radio:  WEEI, CJCL
Air Canada Centre
Referees:  Derrick Stafford, Rodney Mott, Tommy Nunez Jr.

The Celtics continue their brutal stretch of 7 games in 9 nights and begin their first and only back to back to back series with this game in Toronto.  They got a boost from the return of Mickael Pietrus in their last game but lost Ray Allen once again with the swelling in his ankle.  Ray did not travel with the team and is back to the ubiquitous day to day designation.  With Pietrus back and playing well and contributing, it seems like a good move to let Ray sit until he is 100%.  The Raptors have some injury problems of their own with Calderon, Kleiza, and Bargnani all listed as questionable for this game.  Calderon was playing with a bruised eye courtesy of the Sixers and then in their last game,  he was elbowed in the same eye by the Sixers once again.

The Celtics have won their last 4 games, all against playoff teams.  The Raptors have lost their last 4 games and are way out of the playoffs with the 3rd worst record in the East.  The Raptors are 11-19 at home while the Celtics are 13-15 on the road.  The Celtics are 8-2 in their last 10 games while the Raptors are 4-6 in their last 10.  

In looking at the stats, it's hard to see why the Raptors' record is so bad.  They are 27th in scoring (91.3) but the Celtics are just slightly better on offense at 91.8.  On defense, the Celtics allow 89.6 ppg (3rd) on 41.9% shooting (1st).  The Raptors aren't great, but they aren't bad either, ranking 13th in points allowed (94.9) and 9th in FG% allowed (43.9%).  The Raptors rank 19th in rebounding with 41.6 while the Celtics are still last, pulling down just 38.9 rpg,  although, in recent games against some very good rebounding teams,  the Celtics have cleaned up on the boards.  The Raptors also turn the ball over slightly less than the Celtics (14.98 for the Raps to 15.03 for the C's).

 The Raptors just don't seem all that bad when you look at their stats so I'm hoping the Celtics don't underestimate them because the Raptors can be tough when they want to be.  Ever since the Gerald Green alley oop dunk on them, the Raptors and their fans have very much disliked the Celtics and I expect a non-tanking effort from them in this game.  Hopefully, the Celtics don't underestimate them and come out ready for this game.   

Probable Starters
PG:   Rajon Rondo
SG:  Avery Bradley
SF:  Paul Pierce
PF:  Brandon Bass
C:   Kevin Garnett

Celtics Reserves
Ray Allen
E'twaun Moore
Greg Stiemsma
JaJuan Johnson
Sasha Pavlovic
Marquis Daniels
Ryan Hollins
Keyon Dooling
Mickael Pietrus

Jermaine O'Neal (wrist)  out
Ray Allen (ankle) day to day
Brandon Bass (knee) probable  

Probable Starters
PG:  Jose Calderon  
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: Alan Anderson
PF:  Amir Johnson
C:   Aaron Gray

Raptors Bench
Ed Davis
Jamaal Magloire
Gary Forbes
Solomon Alabi
Linas Kleiza
James Johnson
Ben Uzoh
Justin Dentmon

Jose Calderon (eye)  day to day
Andrea Bargnani  (calf)  out
Jerryd Bayless (oblique)  out 

Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs Jose Calderon

Kevin Garnett vs Aaron Gray

Honorable Mention
Avery Bradley vs DeMar DeRozan

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.  The Celtics may be ranked last in rebounding but they have proved that when they really want them, the Celtics can grab rebounds.

Focus - The Celtics tend to lose focus and take some teams for granted, and play down to their level.  They have to keep their focus and play their game whether they are playing the Heat or the Raptors because when the Raptors are taken for granted, they have shown that they can steal a win against +.500 teams.

Defense -  The Celtics must make defense their first priority in each and every game.  They have once again found their defensive identity and their recent surge is the result of that.   They need to play tough defense and lock down the Raptors.  A nice blow out win would be nice since this is the first of back to back to back games and defense is what will give the starters some rest for the next game.  

Be Aggressive - When the Celtics are aggressive in going after loose balls, in going to the hoop, and in crashing the boards, they are really tough to beat.  As they move through this tough stretch, they will need to be more aggressive going to the hoop especially because as their legs get tired, the jumpers won't fall near as easily.  

Official Report

Derrick Stafford
Over his 23 NBA seasons, Derrick Stafford has worked 1,402 regular season, 99 playoff, and five Finals games. He was a member of the crew that officiated the 1997 McDonald’s Championship in Paris, the Legends All-Star Game in Orlando and the 2002 NBA All-Star Game. The 23-year NBA officiating veteran has also served twice on the Executive Board of the National Basketball Referee Association. Stafford has six years of CBA officiating experience, and he officiated Pro-Am basketball for six years. He also has seven years of collegiate officiating and 10 years of high school officiating experience in Georgia. Yet another official that is known to be quick to call technical fouls. Pat Riley and Stafford have a bit of bad blood between them. Back in 2003 when Riley was coaching, he accused Stafford of shouting "It's not about you. Go on TV crying." at Riley when Riley complained excessively about the calls. Stafford was suspended for 2 games as a result. Stafford was also fined as a result of a complaint that Lawrence Frank made when he was coach of the Nets. I found 4 other articles detailing complaints about Stafford for his actions or comments. It seems that Mr Stafford is a hot head who loves to give out quick technicals and lash out at players and coaches who question him. The Celtics are 1-1 this season and 6-4 over the last 10 games with Stafford on the court. Their win was against Toronto and the Celtics shot 32 free throws to 20 for the Raptors. The loss was to the Lakers where the officiating was terrible and the Celtics shot just 5 (yes, that's five) free throws to 20 for the Lakers. The Raptors are 0-2 this season and 1-9 over their last 10 with Stafford. His home W/L record this season is 30-15.

Rodney Mott
Rodney Mott has officiated 870 regular season games and seven playoff games during his 14-season NBA career. Prior to joining the NBA officiating staff, Mott spent four years officiating in the CBA, eight years officiating in the Los Angeles Pro Am basketball league, three years officiating at the junior college level, and four years officiating high school in San Diego. In 2007, Mott was suspended without pay for 3 games for making an obscene gesture and inappropriate comment toward a fan. Mott challenged the charges and said that they used him as a scapegoat to take attention away from other issues, but the suspension stood. The Celtics are 1-1 this season and 7-3 over their last 10 games with Mott. The loss this season was at Dallas and there weren't many fouls called on either team. The Mavs shot 14 free throws to 11 for the Celtics. The win was over the Rockets shot 29 free throws to 31 for the Celtics and the officiating was good. The Raptors are 1-1 this season and 3-7 with Mott in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 32-14.

Tommy Nunez, Jr.
Nunez joined the NBA officiating staff eight years ago and has officiated 392 regular season NBA games. Prior to joining the NBA, Nunez worked the high school ranks in Arizona from 1980-1990, then officiated collegiately 1988-2004, also working the NCAA Tournament from 2002-04. In addition, he officiated in the WNBA (2001-04), NBA Development League (2001-03) and the Continental Basketball Association (1999-01). He started his officiating career calling games in a Hispanic league in his neighborhood for $3.50 an hour. He moved on to calling high school and junior college games. His big break came while officiating an exhibition game with the Phoenix Suns. Darrell Garretson saw him work and suggested he try out to become an NBA referee. Nunez became the first Hispanic to referee in any major sport. The Celtics are 1-0 this season and 7-3 in their last 10 games with Nunez. The win was against the Raptors where the Celtics shot 32 free throws to 20 for the Raptors. The Raptors are 2-1 this season and 5-5 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 23-15.

Fatigue and Focus
The Celtics are playing in their 3rd game in 4 nights along with the travel,  and have games on Saturday and Sunday also.  They could be facing some fatigue and so they need to be able to fight through it.  If the focus is there, as it was against the Heat and Hawks,  they should get a win. Sometimes, though, against the weaker teams, they lose focus and allow those teams to sneak in a win.