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Raptors vs. Celtics: The healthy rivalry for second place

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The Raptors are struggling, the Celtics are not. Second place is on the line, sort of.

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There are a few things we could point to as responsible for the Raptors' current predicament. They've lost two games in a row, which is no big thing, but they've also managed to lose a ton of ground to the Boston Celtics, their main rival. That the Celtics are back in the picture should not be a surprise -- it was predicted as such -- but also: it totally sucks.

The last time these two teams met was on December 9th, a close 101-94 win for the Raptors. Boston, as many (in the New England area) will be quick to remind, was playing without the services of Isaiah Thomas, their starting point guard who's averaging 28 points per game. Given the Raptors' lack of defensive urgency on the perimeter as of late, Thomas' presence could be a problem.

Pre-game, coach Dwane Casey praised the pint-sized guard and, with a smirk, mentioned that the Raptors do not like the Celtics. Casey called it a healthy rivalry, and while he noted the divisions don't matter anymore, the Celtics are indeed, "in [the Raptors'] division."

There's likely no real animosity between these two teams, outside of the usual competitive variety, but I for one want the Raptors to annihilate this team tonight. And I don't think I'm alone in this sentiment.

Now let's get up to speed with the help of Russell Peddle's preview and then, have at it in the comments.