The Raptors will finally get a crack at the newly equipped Boston Celtics tonight in what feels like chapter one of the battle for the Atlantic division. The Celtics haven't won the Atlantic since the 2011-2012 season and the Raptors are looking to hang their fourth straight Atlantic division banner harmoniously with the previous three. I don't think there is too much debate here -- the odds are quite high that either the Raptors or Celtics will win the division despite the Knicks showing signs of life and improvement (I think) and the Nets and Sixers competing for lottery supremacy.
Tonight will be a solid test for the Dinos, but perhaps not the challenge that they can be expecting later in the season, as Celtics point guard Isiah Thomas will be sitting out tonight's contest with a sore groin. The Celtics will have to look elsewhere to replace those 26 points a game that Thomas is currently contributing to the team on a nightly basis. The Raps have won 7 of their last 8 games and sit at 6-3 on the road.
Coming off of a sloppy win against the struggling Timberwolves last night, the Raptors attention to defensive detail must be significantly improved tonight against a strong Boston offense. Even though the Celtics will be without Thomas tonight, they still have four other players who are currently averaging double-digits if you are willing to include Marcus Smarts 9.9 points per-game. Regardless of who is on or off the court tonight, every possession will be riddled with intensity and the purest form of competition.
Here are a few fun facts to get your minds primed for tonight's contest
- Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have been the 2nd highest scoring back-court in the NBA with a combined 48.8 points per-game behind only C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard. I know what you're immediately thinking -- what about Curry and Thompson? Believe it or not, but Lowry and DeRozan have actually combined for more points per-game (just barely) than the splash brothers. (Thanks Durant!)
- Terrence Ross is currently in the 50/40/90 club! I couldn't believe it either, but Ross is averaging 49.7% from the floor (my math teacher always taught me to round up) 45% from three point land and 95% from the charity stripe as per espn.com. Yes he is only averaging 20 minutes a game, I know, but these numbers are extremely hard to come by and should be appreciated while they last.
- The Raptors current offensive rating (117) is better than that of the Warriors last season (114). Again, I know, math is math and the Raptors sample size is much smaller than that of the 82 games of last seasons Warriors, but the fact that they are keeping this pace for the first quarter of the season has been down right impressive.
- Jaylen Brown looks like he could have been playing alongside Larry Bird and Robert Parish in the 80's with those short shorts and high-top fade haircut. Just watch for it, you'll know what I mean.
Okay, that's all I have for now, but check out tonight's preview article by our man Stephen Campbell to get yourself further educated on tonight's contest. Let's GO Raptors!