Celtics-Raptors review: What we saw


Celtics-Raptors review: What we saw

BOSTON The game clock could not count down soon enough in Boston's 100-64 win over the Toronto Raptors. This was one of the few times this season we've seen the Celtics take control of a game from the outset and show no signs of letting up, no cracks to speak of. In games like this, there are a number of players whose game sticks out.

Among the standout performers were Avery Bradley and E'Twaun Moore, who are filling the void created by Rajon Rondo's right wrist injury that has now sidelined him for eight straight games.

Late-game execution is one of those things both young guards need to improve upon.

But to their credit -- and the rest of the Celtics -- there was no need to be precise in executing in the game's final moments.

The execution of the Toronto Raptors had long been completed before the fourth quarter rolled around.

It wouldn't be worth it go into all that went the C's way on Wednesday night.

But there is value in examining the keys identified prior to the game, and seeing how those played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Say what you want about Jermaine O'Neal, but there's no disputing the presence he provides defensively when he's healthy. When facing teams with smaller lineups, the C's need to continue to find ways to get him involved because far too often, teams forget about him at the offensive end of the floor. And the C's and O'Neal made the Cavaliers pay for that, as he tallied 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting which included three dunks.

WHAT WE SAW: Foul trouble and the fact that the game was over by halftime, both resulted in O'Neal playing limited minutes. He still had six points on 3-for-4 shooting, along with three rebounds and a blocked shot. Getting a blowout win and needing O'Neal for just under 14 minutes is the kind of game that the C's would love to have all the time.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. James Johnson: One of Garnett's greatest strengths -- being unselfish -- could be a huge weakness in this matchup. Johnson can not guard Garnett. It's that simple. And the sooner Garnett gets it into his head that he can get pretty much whatever he wants over Johnson, the better off the C's will be.
WHAT WE SAW: Because of the lopsided nature of things, this battle never really materialized. James Johnson had seven points, but he missed eight of his 11 shots before fouling out in the fourth quarter. As for Garnett, had played just under 17 minutes and finished with seven points, five rebounds and four assists.

PLAYER TO WATCH: DeMar DeRozan is playing the small forward position, but he's really more of a shooting guard with size. With Andrea Bargnani (strained left calf) out, DeRozan has become their primary scorer which means Paul Pierce's best contributions today may not necessarily be in his scoring but how he limits DeRozan's point production.

WHAT WE SAW: Even though the absence of Andrea Bargnani means more shot attempts for DeRozan, he has to become a more efficient scorer for his points to have true value. He led the Raptors in shot attempts (12), but he misfired on nine of his attempts.

STAT TO TRACK: The magic number tonight for the Boston Celtics has to be 90. When the Raptors are held below to 90 points or less scored this season, they are 0-11.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston's defense continues to crush weak teams like the Raptors. With a lead that peaked at 40, Boston's defense never allowed Toronto to get into any kind of flow or rhythm. With injuries to key players and a roster that's not overly impressive even when at full strength, Toronto had no chance at winning let alone making the game competitive.

Wojnarowski: C's, Pacers talking Nets pick for George

Wojnarowski: C's, Pacers talking Nets pick for George

Often times reporting something can shake something loose from another source. That might have been the case Thursday morning. 

Just eight minutes after Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the Celtics and Pacers were not in advanced discussions on Paul George because of Boston’s unwillingness to deal the Nets’ 2017 first-round pick, he sent a follow-up saying sources had indicated that the pick was indeed in play. 

George, 26, will be a free agent after the 2017-18 season. 

O'Connor: Zizic would go top-10 in 2017 draft

O'Connor: Zizic would go top-10 in 2017 draft

It seems the Celtics can throw yet another piece onto their treasure trove of assets. 

The Celtics stashed two of their first-round picks from the 2016 draft overseas and in the process have seen 23rd overall pick Ante Zizic establish himself as a very promising NBA prospect. 

The Croatian center, currently playing in the Turkish League, has boosted his stock with a strong season in what’s expected to be his last before joining the Celtics. Appearing on Toucher and Rich Thursday morning, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor said that Zizic has improved to the point that he would be a top-10 pick in the 2017 draft. “He looks really good,” O’Connor said. “I liked him last year when I first watched him. I thought, ‘Good energy big man. He’ll have a solid career,’ but then the more you watch him, the more you see. 

“This year, he’s really taken a step forward. All his strengths look better. All the things he was already good at like screening, rebounding and rim-protection, he looks better. But he’s also starting to flash a little bit of a mid-range jumper, and he’s never had bad mechanics, but now that shot’s starting to fall. So maybe he can be more than that energy big man. Maybe he’s a little bit more dynamic than that. 

“If I’m the Celtics, I value him as you’re getting a top-10 pick this yea. I think he’d go around nine or 10 in this draft.”