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The Celtics Once Again Have A Huge Test Tonight Against Toronto, Here's How They Win

Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics

It’s no secret the Celtics are once again fighting through a rough stretch of basketball. It’s been their story of their season so far, play well against good teams, play like complete assholes against the bad ones. It’s the main reason their season makes so little sense. One of the best point differentials and net ratings in the league, yet they are nowhere near where we expected them to be when the season started. Coming off a three game slide, the pressure is absolutely on tonight against the best team in the East, the Toronto Raptors. Here you have a team experiencing none of the issues plaguing the Celtics, playing some of their best basketball as winners of 5 straight, 8-2 over their last 10 and an East leading 15-8 road record. It’s not exactly rocket science to say the Celtics are going to have to be at their best to even hang with this Raptors team, but in looking at these two teams there is some important history to consider.

For example, did you know the last time a home team lost a game in this matchup was December 9th, 2016?  That’s just once in their last 10 meetings. Off the bat that has to make you feel a little better as a Celtics fan, add to that the fact that this team has already beaten TOR at home so far this season and there’s reason to think they may be able to pull this out tonight. You look at both of the matchups so far, and each game was the physical battle we all expected. The Celtics had 1 bad quarter up in TOR, pooped their pants when the Raptors went on a run and lost by 12. The back in Boston they gave us our first example of false hope pulling out an OT thriller by 7. Do either of these games have anything to do with tonight? I’m not so sure. These teams are so different from that November 16th date that it’s almost like starting from scratch. We should start my mentioning the fact that TOR is coming into this game missing some key rotation players. OG Anunoby won’t play, Jonas Valanciunas is still out, and both CJ Miles and Fred VanVleet are questionable. That cannot be ignored, and if none of those guys end up playing then the Celtics truly have no excuses. They’re getting Kyrie and Smart back most likely, and there’s an outside chance Baynes even returns. In what is pretty much a must win type game, the pressure is once again on the Celtics to show us that they can compete and beat these elite teams. To be honest that’s the only thing keeping me sane right now.

When you look at how they’ve faired against TOR/MIL/IND/PHI they have a respectable 5-3 record. Granted those 5 wins all came at home, but seeing as how tonight is also at home I don’t really care about that. If the Celts are going to pull out this much, much needed win, they are going to have to put an emphasis on these areas.

For the love of God, please get back to moving the ball

This in my opinion is the easiest ask. Pass the ball. In the first meeting, they tallied 29 assists on 40 FGM and were competitive for 90% of that game. In the second meeting they had 25 assists on their 47 FGM. I don’t need to tell you that when this team actually moves the ball everything falls into place and they win. What haven’t they done during this three game slide? Move the ball. Under 21 assists in all three, this team is too inconsistent offensively to play this isolation no ball movement style of basketball. Trust your teammates, and move the rock.

The Raptors defense is too good to try and beat them with everyone standing around and watching. Ball movement is going to be crucial in order to force rotations and try and get past the TOR length. My hope is that bringing Kyrie and Smart back into the lineup solves this, but then again they did play in 2 of the 3 losses where that passing didn’t really happen.

Stop letting 56 year old Serge Ibaka beat you

If there’s one thing you can bank on, it’s that Serge Ibaka is going to be a problem tonight. Whether it’s on the glass, hitting a big clutch midrange jumper, I just know deep in my bones that he’s going to make be irrationally angry tonight. Will it help if Baynes is back? Sure, but if not, Al Horford my dude, you need to get your shit together and win that matchup. Whatever defense you played against BKNm or lack thereof, you cannot do tonight.

In the first meeting, it was a 21/6 performance on 10-14 shooting. In the second it was 21/4 on 8-15 shooting and 2-3 from deep. He’s been somewhat human these last three games scoring no more than 14 points and shooting just 40/30% over this stretch. If Horford/Baynes/Theis can’t control this guy it’s going to be a lonnnnng ass night.

Show some balls and punch back

You know the Raptors are going to go on a run at some point. There’s going to be a stretch where Kawhi goes on like an 8-0 run, or Lowry hits some big 30ft three and the question is going to become how do the Celtics handle that. Recently? They’ve shit their pants when things haven’t gone their way and all of the sudden we have a 20-2 run on our hands. I want to see this team show some fucking balls and punch back. It’d be nice to not allow a run like that in the first place but I won’t be greedy. Just show me that you won’t just roll over and let the Raptors pet your belly and things will be OK.

Oh, and Brad, call a goddamn timeout if you see things getting out of hand. I beg of you.

Attack, attack, attack

Since JV went out on 12/12, the Raptors are 17th in the league in opponents points in the paint. They are thin up front, so there is no reason why guys like Kyrie/Tatum/Jaylen/Hayward etc should be settling for jumpers. That’s what the Raptors want you to do and they have the wing defenders to make that a nightmare scenario for you. We’ve seen Greg Monroe up close, we know he’s mostly trash, and this team outside of Ibaka does not have an intimidating rim protector. This is something the Celtics are below average at on the season, but we have seem them be so much better with PITTP over the last few weeks. If they can get that number in the high 40s/50s, and I dunno, actually get to the FT line, that’s going to make all the difference in the world.


If they play like assholes and take nothing but threes and don’t get to the line, you’re playing into TOR’s hands.

Be ready for aggressive Kawhi

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that Kawhi balls out against this team, much like he has all year. The challenge for whoever is on him, whether it’s Jaylen/Smart/Hayward/Morris/etc is they have to be prepared for him to put his head down and attack the rim. He has a 14.6 drives per game average which is the 8th most in the league, and the ability to be prepared for that and contest/defend without fouling is going to be crucial for this defense. He’s averaging 9 FTA a night against the Celts this season which is around 2 FTA more than his average and he’s too big of a superstar to be lazy and try and reach.

Jaylen does that shit all the time, and it’s why he gets into foul trouble all the damn time. If you’re going to foul him make it count, but these light ass swipes at the ball because you’re out of position on a drive simply cannot happen.

Kyrie has to win the PG matchup

This is the story every time these two teams play and Lowry is in the lineup, but Kyrie has to be ready for the 30ft momentum three, and he has to be ready for a guy that is going to put his head down and use his size to create contact. Maybe they play Smart on him defensively, but when it comes to Kyrie he’s going to have to be efficient. He showed he could do it in their last meeting where he went for 43 on 18-26 against Lowry, and while that’s a little much to expect this time around, the efficiency is something that will be super important. He owned that matchup in November, so something tells me Lowry will be motivated this time around.

If there’s one thing this team has shown us so far it’s that they can’t be trusted. They zig when we think they’re going to zap, they lose when we think they should win and vice versa. Vegas has the Celts -2, and to me that makes me nervous. How on earth could they be favored right now even with them being at home? My heart tell me that they’ll be ready to go, play well tonight and get the bad taste of the past few days out of their mouths, but at the same time my head says we haven’t seen anything that tells us they are capable of that.


Either way I’m already nervous and tipoff can’t get here quick enough. Please don’t let me down……again.