Celtics-Raptors preview: Playing the underdog

Celtics-Raptors preview: Playing the underdog
March 26, 2014, 10:30 am
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BOSTON — Jared Sullinger has never been to the playoffs but he definitely knows what the Toronto Raptors are feeling as they prepare to face the Celtics tonight.

Throughout most of his prep career and in college at Ohio State, Sullinger is used to being part of the team with the bull's eye while his opponents were the ones looking to pull off an upset.

Now Sullinger finds himself and the Celtics well-entrenched in the role of underdog heading into tonight's game against Toronto.

"Being on the other side is definitely something I like," Sullinger said.

It affords Sullinger and the Celtics another opportunity to salvage what's remaining of a season that will not include a postseason berth, a first for Boston since 2007.

"We've continued to have pretty good spirit among us which is good," said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. "And we've seen some increase in production from certain guys."

They'll need that to continue if they are to knock off a Raptors that's clinging to a 1.5 game lead over the Brooklyn Nets in the Atlantic Division.

Here are some other keys to tonight's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Toronto has guys who can score the ball, but their defense has been deceptively strong this season. Opponents are averaging just 96.2 points per game against the Raptors, the fourth-best mark defensively in the NBA.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Kyle Lowry
These are the kind of battles that will give Rondo a better feel for where he's at relative to the top point guards in the NBA, an exclusive club that this season includes Lowry.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Avery Bradley has been in a nice groove shooting the ball lately. In his last two games, Bradley has shot 20-for-32 from the field while averaging 25.5 points per game.

STAT TO TRACK: One of Toronto's strengths defensively this season has been their knack for not allowing teams to get easy scores in transition. They come into tonight's game allowing just 11.8 fast-break points which ranks fourth in the league. Meanwhile, the Celtics rank 19th in the league in fast break points (12.1) per game.