Celtics-Raptors preview: C's face true test in Toronto

Celtics-Raptors preview: C's face true test in Toronto

As you glance across the NBA landscape, for those of us who deal with teams outside of Cleveland and the Bay Area, there’s usually an opponent on the schedule that’s going to cause problems regardless of how well or woeful a team might be playing is at that point in time.

For the Boston Celtics, the Toronto Raptors (24-13) would indeed qualify as a team that has had their number in recent years.

Including last month’s 101-94 Toronto win, the Celtics are just 4-9 against the Raptors under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens.

And three of the four wins were by five points or less.

Stevens knows that throughout all levels of basketball, there are some matchups that pose a stiffer challenge than others regardless of where the respective teams are at that point in their growth.

“The end of the day, people struggle with them because they’re really good,” he said.

And the key to Toronto’s surge towards being an elite team, has been the backcourt tandem of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

Both are having impressive seasons for the Raptors, and should both be selected as all-stars.

“Lowry and DeRozan are outstanding players,” Stevens said. “Lowry has continued to make huge, game-changing plays deep in the game over and over and over. DeRozan is having a career year and that’s saying something because he was an all-star prior to this. You add on top of that the ability to go small with (Corey) Joseph and (Terrence) Ross, the way (DeMarre) Carroll is shooting the ball, bringing (Patrick) Patterson back, who I think is a huge key to their team. It’s a good team.”

And the same can be said for the Celtics (23-14) who come in having won four in a row and 10 of their last 12 games.

However, as a team with deep playoff-run expectations, Boston still has no true feel for what it will need to get over the hump and be among the last teams standing.

And games like tonight’s against the Raptors will go far in Boston’s quest to figure out where they fall in line with the handful of teams that are expected to be among the better clubs in the NBA this season.

We’ve seen the Celtics take a relatively low-key approach to games like this, trying their best not to give the game too much credence in comparison to others.

But tonight is different.

This is there first real shot since their core guys have been healthy, to play a Raptors team that will be in the mix as a power in the East.

“It’s important. We’re growing as a group,” Boston’s Al Horford told CSNNE.com. “We have a good chance to really go up there and see how much we’ve come along since the last time we played them.”

The Celtics are playing their best basketball of the season right now in terms of wins and losses, although the defense has a few areas in need of shoring up beginning tonight.

Meanwhile, the Raptors have hit a rough patch in their schedule that has resulted in them losing five of their last seven games.

While they may be traveling in opposite directions currently, these two teams seem destined to meet up not only in two more regular season meetings but also in the postseason.

Establishing any kind of potential edge from a mental standpoint, can be huge for the Celtics which is why tonight’s game is one that they take very serious.

“It’s a big one,” said Boston’s Jae Crowder. “We’re right where we want to be. We had a good last week; We look to have a good week this week, especially against Toronto.”

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Hawks hold decisive edge on the boards

Halftime stars, studs and duds: Hawks hold decisive edge on the boards

BOSTON – The return of Avery Bradley was a good thing for the Boston Celtics, but it wasn’t enough for them to control the action in the first half of Monday’s game against the Hawks who took a 51-47 lead into the half.

Bradley, who had missed previous 18 games and 22 of 23, had six points in the first half on 2-for-4 shooting.

The Celtics opened the game with a 7-2 spurt and led by as many as eight points (15-7) in the first before the Hawks begin to cut into Boston’s lead and eventually take their first lead of the night following a 3-point play by Paul Millsap with 4:20 to play in the quarter which put them ahead 18-15 as part of an 11-0 run.

Boston would regain the lead before both teams went into the second quarter tied at 24.

The second quarter saw Boston hit one of those scoring lulls that they go through from time to time.

But unlike last night’s win at Detroit when they went nearly four minutes without scoring, Atlanta’s offense did a much better job of taking advantage of Boston’s struggles.

Atlanta went on a 9-2 spurt in the second quarter capped off by a Kent Bazemore lay-up that put the Hawks ahead 35-31.

Boston rallied soon after with Bradley leading the charge.

Bradley drained a 3-pointer that cut Atlanta’s lead to 35-34.

A defensive stop by Boston led the way for an Isaiah Thomas lay-up that put the Celtics back on top, leading to the Hawks calling a time-out with 6:18to play in the half.

Atlanta tightened up defensively, doing just enough to go into the half with a four-point lead.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks.

 

STARS

Dennis Schroder

He really came out and set the tone for the Hawks, scoring eight of his 10 first-half points in the first quarter.

Isaiah Thomas

Atlanta did a nice job of blitzing Thomas and forcing him to pass the ball. But Thomas is a professional scorer so you knew it was a matter of time before he got going offensively. He led the Celtics with nine points at the half, in addition to dishing out five assists while also grabbing five rebounds.

Dwight Howard

The Celtics simply could not keep him from dominating play around the rim. He led all scorers at the half with 12 points while grabbing eight rebounds.

 

STUDS

Marcus Smart

When the offense seemed to stall, it was Smart who kept the Celtics within striking distance in the second quarter. He had seven points at the half along with three rebounds and an assist.

Paul Millsap

He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (he missed six of his seven shots), but his presence was felt. He had five points at the half along with nine rebounds.

 

DUDS

Celtics rebounding

It really is an adventure when it comes to the Boston Celtics and rebounding the ball. Tonight, they have not been very good, with the Hawks holding a decisive 32-21 rebounding edge which has allowed them to hold a 28-14 advantage in points in the paint, an 8-2 edge on second-chance points in addition to leading the fast break points game, 7-4.

Report: Celtics still 'very much' in the running for Andrew Bogut

Report: Celtics still 'very much' in the running for Andrew Bogut

Just when it appeared Andrew Bogut was heading to Cleveland, a source has told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe that the reports are "innacurate."

According to Himmelsbach, the Celtics are "very much" in the running and Bogut is "hoping to speak to a few Celtics players over the phone on Tuesday to get a gauge on how he might fit with their team."

The Dallas Mavericks traded Bogut to the Philadelphia 76ers at the deadline for big man Nerlens Noel.