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Raptors and Celtics face-off in Boston: Preview, start time, and more

Losers of the last two, Toronto looks to get back to their winning ways by taking on the Boston Celtics in TD Garden.

Toronto Raptors vs. Boston Celtics Game Thread: Pre-game updates, TV info, and more Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Dwane Casey’s return to Toronto was magical — at least for him. Toronto blew a 19-point second half lead to the visiting Pistons to lose two games in a row for the first time this season. Blake Griffin, who had carried the offense the whole night, had this to say about Dwane Casey, Toronto fans, and Raptor front office.

Now, Toronto faces much stiffer competition and look to avoid losing three in a row. Boston is coming off a 111-82 victory over the Chicago Bulls. The win against Chicago snapped a 2-game losing streak and was one of the few decisive wins Boston have had this season.

The Celtics finished their west coast road trip 1-4 before the win. Their star guard Kyrie Irving sparked some controversy recently when he called for a 14-year or 15-year veteran after a loss against the Trail Blazers. However, he clarified those comments after the win on Wednesday.

Raptors sit first in the Eastern Conference and have the best record in the league. The Celtics are 2-4 in their last six. The Raptors won the early season match-up against the Celtics. Boston played well against the Bulls and have momentum. Boston is looking to tie the season series at 1-1. Raptors are trying to avoid losing three in a row. This has all the makings of a thrilling game. Both teams are on the front-end of a back-to-back, so expect the Celtics to have a quick start.

Here are the details for tonight’s game:

Where to Watch:

Sportsnet One, 7:00pm (EST)

Lineups:

Raptors – Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka

Celtics – Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford

Injuries:

Raptors – Norman Powell (shoulder – out), C.J. Miles (groin – doubtful), Danny Green (back – probable)

Celtics – Marcus Morris (illness – questionable)

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Unstoppable Force vs. Immovable Object

Through 14 games, the Celtics rank first in the NBA in defensive rating with 102.2. Toronto is ranked fourth in the league on offense, with an offensive rating of 114.7. Despite the Raptors’ ranking top 10 in defense as well, they have put together multiple 30+ point quarters this season. Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam have been shooting a high percentage so far this season.

The Celtics defense is strong, however they rank in the bottom 10 on offense. This team has a few premier scorers like Irving and Tatum, as well as multiple guys that can go off on any night in Brown, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Morris, which seems to suggest the slow start on offense could just be growing pains. Last season, Boston had one of the worst offenses in the league too though. If they continue to struggle on that end, Toronto should be the favourites.

Pick Up the Pace

With C.J. Miles out and Fred VanVleet struggling with shooting, Toronto’s half court offense takes a hit once the bench comes in. What made the bench special last year was the defensive pressure leading to breakouts and transition buckets. With Siakam being pushed into the starting lineup this year, his high energy is missed with the bench unit.

Raptors need to keep the game at a high pace. VanVleet has been aggressive off the bounce all season and should continue to push the pace against this slower Celtics team. Celtics are currently ranked 18th in pace, while the Raptors are 9th, so playing at Boston’s pace will make this a ‘grind-it-out’ type game, and that helps for the Celtics.

Weather the Storm

With the Raptors heading into a tough environment having just lost two games, the Celtics will be motivated to hit Toronto hard and early. For the Celtics, the schedule gets a little easier after this weekend (in which they play the Raps and Utah). Celtics coach Brad Stevens will rightfully put a lot more emphasis on the next two games, which could mean a stronger showing this game.

The Celtics don’t need much motivation, especially after they lost to this Toronto team early in the season at the Scotiabank Arena. They are healthy, coming off a strong showing against the Bulls, and full of confidence. Toronto will need to weather a first half storm if they want to win. If the Raptors stay close all game and avoid getting blown out in the first quarter, they should manage to get back to where they need to be.