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3 In the Key - Toronto Raptors Game Day Preview vs. Boston

After an embarrassing performance against the Charlotte Bobcats fans and media alike have had the opportunity to vent and discuss. It was a terrible performance but as they say in the business - "The Show Must Go On!"

Up next for the Raps...the Boston Celtics.

Remember when the Raps beat the Cavaliers on opening night? Remember the optimism? The positive vibes?

Well after Wednesday's game and the comments posted here, I think it's fair to say that optimism as left the building!

But hey, there's no better way to rebound from that performance than face the Atlantic Division leading Boston Celtics right?


Rather than harp on all the negatives and the unlikelihood of the Raps securing a win, let me focus on some of the things in the Raps favour.

First, despite the strong record the Celtics are just 6-4 in their last ten and three of their losses have come on their home court. Second, there have to be some holes in the roster if the team expresses interest in signing Allen Iverson before he retired. Third, Kevin Garnett just doesn't look like the Kevin Garnett of old.

All is not peaches and cream in Beantown. To get the down and dirty on the Celtics we reached out to Jeff @ Celticsblog for the traditional Friday Blogging With the Enemy segment.

HQ - The Celtics are off to a solid start but outside of the Cleveland game have suffered losses when matched up against the best in the East (Atlanta and Orlando). Is this a cause for concern? Do you think this team is as good as the one that hoisted the Larry O'Brien trophy? If not, why not?

Jeff - Of course there's cause for concern. In fact, there's panic and rioting in the streets as we speak.  Well, not quite yet, but this is Boston after all, so expect it any time now.  Only time will tell if this team is in a slump or if the window is closing on the aging veterans.  I think they can and will recover but I'm not ruling out the possibility that this team is getting flat out old. 

HQThe big acquisition for the Celtics in the off-season was Rasheed. How has he fit into what the Celtics are trying to do? 

JeffSheed is fitting in just fine but he's in a massive shooting slump, which kind of offsets the good he's doing.  Hopefully the law of averages will even out and he'll start hitting some shots for us.  Till that happens, we're just treading water with him.

HQ - What do the Celtics have to do to secure a W on Friday against the Raps? What are the keys to the game for the Celtics?

Jeff - Against the Raptors the Celtics have to get back to what they do best, play suffocating defense. Everything else flows from that.  Sure, some better ball movement and shot selection would help.  Rondo needs to keep attacking and setting up his teammates, and Pierce needs to keep doing exactly what he's been doing.  But without the D, none of that really matters. 

A big shout out to Jeff for answering your inquiries.

His last answer speaks volumes about the difference between a team below .500 (the Raptors) and one considered to be an elite team in the East. It's all about the defense and as Jeff mentions, without it nothing else really matters. The great teams, even the good teams play defense. It is the only thing that can be a constant variable. Shooting comes and goes and you can't rely solely on your offense to win a lot of games. The Raptors, at some point have to learn that.

The other thing that really stands out for me is his concern over the Celtics being an "old" team, which brings us to the three key's for tonight's game....

1. Make the Old Men Run:  Tonight the Raps need to take a page out of the play books in every YMCA. The Raps need to treat the Celtics as the old dude at the local gym. You know the guy I mean. The Celtics are the burley man with the moustache who throws his body around, whose only shot is a set shot (but a damn good one) and has no fear fouling you hard. He is uber effective...unless you run him into the ground. Well the Raps need to do just that, they have to run and run some more to increase the number of open looks and create open shots on the wing. If the Raps play at the Celtics pace it is going to be a beat down.

2. Stop Rondo: I have a bad feeling about the Jose/Rondo match-up on this evening. Rondo is one of the quickest guys in the league and except for his free-throw shooting he has developed into a complete point guard. He and Calderon couldn't be much more different. Rondo is a great on the ball defender who attacks relentlessly. Calderon is a great distributor and outside shooter. Which one wins out? Based on the premise that defense wins out you have to say Rondo...but whoever wins this battle will give their team a big leg up.

3. Bosh vs. Garnett: As much as I will be watching the PG match-up, the other key match-up is Bosh vs. KG. Up to this point Bosh's career has had some resemblance to Garnett's while in Minnesota. Like Garnett, Bosh is putting up big numbers on a losing team (thus far). The biggest difference is that Garnett was not only an offensive force in his prime but was a defensive beast (and still is). Bosh needs to add that element to his game. It is KG's defense that causes Bosh fits at times, despite the fact that KG is many years his elder. When you throw Rasheed Wallace into the mix, a player who has been a tough match-up for Bosh over the years, it makes for a tough night at the office for the Raptors franchise player. Can Bosh exert his will against the Celtics bigs like he has against the rest of the league thus far? He is going to need to do his best KG impression if the Raptors are going to steal a win.