The Toronto Raptors are in Boston today for a rare noon tip-off against the Celtics. The HQ breaks down what could be a match between two teams missing most of their key players.
First Kyle Lowry went down.
Then something was off with Landry Fields.
Then Alan Anderson, the player expected to take Fields' spot, also went down.
The Toronto Raptors were already short-handed going into this afternoon's match against the Celtics in Boston, and based on yesterday's practice, they might be down a few more folks as well.
Amir Johnson didn't fully participate in practice due to flu-like symptoms, (Casey noted that Amir looked like himself, "he looked terrible"), Linas Kleiza was limited in practice thanks to a sore ankle, and Dominic McGuire missed practice for personal reasons and is apparently meeting the club in Boston.
So yes, the coaches indeed had to step in and fill out the roster, just to get through practice.
Luckily though, this banged-up Raptors squad is taking on a Boston Celtics team today that hasn't been playing great basketball, and is also going through some injury issues. Rajon Rondo is questionable with a sprained right ankle and minus Rondo, the Celtics may really struggle. Former Raptor Leandro Barbosa started in Rondo's spot on Thursday and scored 17 points but was hardly Rondo in the assist department, and the C's lost to Brooklyn 102 to 97.
So we could be witnessing Jose Calderon vs his old teammate Barbosa in a few hours here, our first key to the game...
1) Point Guard Battle. Jose Calderon has been playing some very good basketball recently in the absence of Kyle Lowry. And if Rajon Rondo sits this one out, it gives Toronto a major shot at breaking the C's nine-game home win streak against the Raps. Calderon will need to continue to find the open man, work the pick-and-roll and also look for his shot. The Raps offence has been pretty woeful (21st in offensive efficiency) and with the plethora of injuries impacting the club currently, they need all the offence from Jose that they can get.
2) Defense. The Raps offense might be woeful, but the D is actually worse. Ranking 22nd in defensive efficiency Toronto just hasn't yet found that defensive moxy that made them such an upset threat last season.
Luckily, the Celtics aren't much better, and are in fact one stop above Toronto on the defensive efficiency ladder. This seems strange considering that defence is the trait the C's have hung their collective hats on for years, but the truth, as John Hollinger noted recently, is that Boston's D has been horrendous anytime Kevin Garnett is not on the floor.
From the Hollinger post:
Boston has a defensive efficiency rating of 92.0 with Garnett on the floor, according to NBA.com, which would rank the Celtics first in the NBA. The fact (A) they're so good with Garnett, (B) Garnett plays the majority of their minutes and (C) they're just 21st overall leads to one obvious conclusion: They must really, really stink once Garnett leaves the floor.
You'd be correct in that presumption. Without Garnett they've allowed an impossibly bad 116.3 efficiency mark, rebounding just 71.8 percent of opponent misses and seeing an increase of nearly 10 points in opponent effective field goal percentage, according to 82games.com.
So this right now isn't the Celtics of old, and if the Raps can lock down on D (which would be made easier of course if Rondo doesn't play), they may very well be able to steal one on the road.
To which I say, no kidding.
While I've been advocating Bargnani's disposal for the better part of the last four seasons, it may be time to really start hoping he finds a bit of success before Christmas.
The Raptors have major issues at the 3 spot and with Landry Fields' return date unknown, maybe Toronto can kill two birds with one stone by moving Bargs for a legit 3 that can put points on the board?
To do that though, Andrea needs to put forth a much better effort at both ends in these next matches, and oh...shooting over 36 per cent from the field wouldn't hurt...