The Toronto Raptors (48-21) will hit the road on Wednesday when they visit the Boston Celtics (41-30) at the TD Garden. The Raptors come into this one having won four straight games - including a 105-91 rout of the Celtics on Friday in Toronto. The Celtics are on a brief two-game winning streak, however they had lost four straight games before their last two.
Toronto took the first three games of this season series and will look to complete the sweep in Boston where it started.
It All Comes Down To Defense
Like it did in their last meeting, this matchup will come down to the team that digs in and gets stops on the defensive end. Both these teams can score the basketball as they have many offensive weapons such as Isaiah Thomas (Boston), Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan (Raptors). Toronto averages 103 points per game and ranks fifth in offensive efficiency while the Celtics average 106 and rank 12th in the same category. The two ball-clubs proved their scoring ability during their last meeting, but it was Toronto who decided to pick up the defense and create separation.
Despite giving up a combined 60 points in the second and third quarters, Toronto had a couple of stretches where they played lock-down defense which ultimately put the Celtics away. The Raptors gave up just 14 points in the first quarter and also held the Celtics to a mere two points during the first 7:06 of the final frame. It was outstanding defensive stands like these that gave Toronto the edge in this game.
Key Matchup: Lowry Vs Thomas
Every time these two teams meet, the point guard battle is always one to keep an eye on. On Friday when Boston and Toronto played at Air Canada Centre, the two stars put on an electrifying show as Lowry led the way for Toronto with 32 points while Thomas scored a team-high of his own with 20.
Lowry, a two-time All-Star, is having the best season of his NBA career averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage. Lowry is averaging 22.9 points, 6.4 assists, and 5.0 rebounds on the year.
Thomas is also having a career year as he has recorded career-highs in both points, with 22.1 per game, and assists, with 6.5 per game. The 5' 9" guard was selected to his first NBA All-Star Game this February in Toronto. This matchup features two of the East’s premier point guards and should be a lot of fun to watch.
As the NBA approaches the post-season, each and every game is becoming more important in regards to playoff seeding. The Raptors have impressed this season and sit just a game and a half back of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who sit at first place and also play Wednesday night.
Boston, on the other hand, is amidst a very tight race between the three through six seeded teams in the East. The Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, and Celtics all sit eight games back of Toronto while the Charlotte Hornets follow close behind at just half a game back of these three. It is going to be a very interesting final month in the Eastern Conference as much is yet to be decided in the standings.
Injuries have not been kind to Toronto this season with Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll both missing extended time due to their health as well as endless minor injuries to various players along the way. However, Toronto has done an incredible job of adjusting and making the most of the players they have available. Carroll remains out indefinitely after knee surgery while Valanciunas, James Johnson, and Patrick Patterson are all listed as questionable. Jae Crowder is out for Boston with an ankle injury.
Will the Raptors win their fifth straight and continue to claw towards first place or will the Celtics get a crucial victory at home? Action gets underway in Boston at 7:30 pm EST.