Slow vs slower. In a game which threatens to be the slowest paced game of the year, it'll be a battle between the Raptors and Celtics in Boston. With both teams at 4 wins, this could be a very important turning point for the Celtics who still have playoff and championship aspirations.
The Raptors are sitting at 4-10 and I doubt anyone in Raptorland is losing any sleep over it. Between some really entertaining Andrea Bargnani Campaign Videos and the secure thought that this team will look drastically different at the beginning of next year, it's been more or less a comfortable ride. We know that coach Casey, for the most part, has the Raptors doing things that they need to do to be competitive in future years, we are finally get some decent production from our maligned first overall selection, and there are some pieces who continue to impress such as Amir Johnson.
Contrast this with the Boston Celtics.
At 4-8, the Celtics are searching for answers and contemplating their solid (yet aging) core. With Rondo being shopped around in the off season, both Big Baby Davis and Kendrick Perkins gone, there's no doubt that the Celtics time has come and gone.
That's not to say that the Raptors are in the same league.
It's becoming apparent though, that while the Raptors are good at countering their opponents, counter punching is a completely different story. It's going to be a running theme it seems, but the Raptors seem to be able to make the stops when needed, but are seldom able to finish cleanly on the fast break. Whether it's a personnel issue, or a coaching issue, it is something that I hope Dwane Casey pays more attention to in the future.
Likewise, I've been pretty unhappy with how the Raptors have been rebounding the ball after key stops. It seems that this team wants to leak out a lot of the time, but with how poor the fast break has been this year, I think all their attention needs to be focused on getting those rebounds, especially after they make the opposition take a contested shot at the end of the clock.
In tonight's game though, there are going to be smaller battles to take care of if the Raptors hope to come up on top of the rapidly declining Celtics
1) Finding consistent offense - You can't really blame the Raptors since both Andrea Bargnani and Jerryd Bayless are arguably the first options for both the starters and bench players, but there has to be slack picked up. Whether it's Amir Johnson, Ed Davis, Leandro Barbosa or (finally) DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors need someone to carry the weight throughout the game. Defense is fine, but that attention on the defensive end starts cracking when no one can buy a shot
2) Turnovers - We know the Raptors are horrible on their turnovers lately, but at the same time, the Celtics coming in are pretty bad in this category as well. What could make the difference is how effectively the Celtics can score off of turnovers thanks to a player like Rajon Rondo who has speed and finishing ability.
In order to win, the Raptors need to be much more efficient and effective since they don't have a player who is as affective as Rondo on the fast break.
3) Play to your age - The Raptors strength? Youth. As Danny Ainge put it when asked if the Celtics are looking "old", the statistics and the product on the court don't lie. And as a passing observer, it's not hard to see why. Their offensive rebounding has come down quite a bit and they are relying on players who are frankly, yet another year older.
Without having Jeff Green on the team, it means that the Celtics starting line up has an average age of 32 and a half. So the Raptors are going to need to run and dunk and pound the ball inside. Make the Celtics feel their age.