Game Preview: Raptors @ Celtics

UPDATE – 2:26 PM: Rondo’s back…



 

UPDATE – 1:22 PM: Rajon Rondo’s getting closer, but won’t play for the Celtics tonight. He’s been assigned to the Maine Red Claws of the NBA D-League for essentially a one-day workout.



 

The Raptors try and end another major road losing streak when they visit the Celtics in Boston tonight (7:30 PM ET, Sportsnet ONE, TSN 1050).

To date this season, the Raptors halted an eight-game slide against the Bucks way back on November 2nd and ended a 10-game losing streak in Los Angeles against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on December 8th. That latter victory has been a turning point for this current group of Raptors, which has gone 13-5 since, including three straight wins overall.

Tonight in Boston, the Raptors will try and end a road nightmare that’s seen them drop 19 of their last 21 visits and 10 straight trips to TD Garden.

There may be no better time for a sea-change. The Raptors’ futility in Beantown in recent seasons has largely come at the expense of the Celtics’ former core featuring Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

Rondo is only name of that group still a Celtic and the point guard remains sidelined with a torn ACL (for at least one more game).

That’s left new head coach Brad Stevens with a young roster that’s playing hard, but clearly in flux. They’ll aim to avoid a 10th straight defeat tonight.

Should the Raptors get the job done tonight, it would also represent a little history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Raptors have never ended three road losing streaks of eight or more games in the same season.

Key Matchup – DeMar DeRozan vs. Avery Bradley: This matchup has become much more than a high-volume scorer vs. an excellent backcourt defender.

DeRozan ranks second in scoring among Eastern Conference guards since Dec. 1, with an average of 21.1 points in 20 games. But he’s also been getting it done with the pass — recording four or more assists in six straight games including a team-high seven assists in Monday’s win over the Bucks. That improved the Raptors record to 13-4 when DeRozan racks up at least four assists.

With Rondo out and the Celtics retooling, Bradley has shouldered more of an offensive load and he’s delivered — particularly of late. In eight January games, he’s averaged 17.8 points per game with his shooting percentages up from nearly every area on the floor.

Key Stat – Synergy With Starting Five:The starting unit of Lowry, DeRozan, Ross, Johnson and Valanciunas have been intact for the vast majority of this Raptors run and will look for a 13th win in 18 tries tonight.

The last Raptors starting lineup to rack up 13 wins together? That would be Jarrett Jack, Andrea Bargnani, Hedo Turkoglu, Chris Bosh and DeRozan, which went 13-13 back in 2009-10.

By The Numbers: Raptors vs. Celtics

Team Comparison
2013-14 AVERAGES 2013-14 RANKINGS
TOR BOS   TOR BOS
PPG 99.2 95.2 PPG 18 26
FG% .436 .443 FG% 24 19
3FG% .358 .337 3FG% 13 26
FT% .780 .764 FT% 6 13
OFF 11.8 10.9 OFF 9 19
DEF 31.4 31.4 DEF 21 20
REB 42.9 42.3 REB 19 23
AST 19.7 19.4 AST 26 27
STL 7.1 6.8 STL 22 27
TO 14.6 15.9 TO 9 26
BLK 4.8 4.7 BLK 16 17

Last Time They Met: Celtics 87, Raptors 93 – Nov. 26, 2014

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