And so we find ourselves here in Boston, with both of these teams looking for their first win of the 2021-22 season.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 7:30 PM EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Goran Dragic, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Precious Achiuwa
Boston – Marcus Smart, Josh Richardson, Jayson Tatum, Juancho Hernangomez, Robert Williams
Toronto – Pascal Siakam (shoulder – out), Yuta Watanabe (calf – out)
Boston – Al Horford (health and safety protocols — out); Marcus Smart (knee —probable); Josh Richardson (migraine — out)
Got their number
Dating back to the Bubble, the Raptors are 3-8 in their last 11 games versus the Celtics, and that includes getting swept 3-0 last season. The Celtics, with their perimeter scorers, have simply been a bad matchup for the Raptors since Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard left town.
And this Raptors team is not as good as those Raptors teams that went 3-8.
Still, new guys like Precious Achiuwa and Scottie Barnes should have no institutional fear of this Celtics team. Maybe tonight will be different!
Contain the Js
Tonight will be different, if not in outcome, then certainly in personnel. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been Raptor killers the past two seasons. The last time these two teams met, the Jays combined for 48 points and 19 rebounds.
And while the Raptors have gotten longer and more athletic (see the aforementioned Barnes and Achiuwa) and are on paper a better perimeter defenive team, they’re also missing Pascal Siakam, who remains a top defender. And the Raptors still start two small backcourt players.
Asking a rookie, a sophomore and OG Anunoby to slow down Brown and Tatum is a tall order.
Get Smart (yeah, I know, you’ve heard that one before)
Alongside Tatum and Brown, you can’t dismiss what Marcus Smart has done against the Raptors either. Smart missed all three of last season’s matchups, but I know you don’t forget (can’t forget) what Smart did to the Raptors in the 2020 playoffs.
First, there was Game 2, in which Smart dropped in five three-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Celtics came back from eight points down to win 102-99. Smart would go on to shoot 39% from three in the series; he’s a career 32% shooter from distance.
Then there was Game 7, where Smart blocked chased down and blocked a Norman Powell layup with under a minute to go and the Raptors trailing by two.
That’s the last time Smart faced the Raptors. I’m willing to bet he’s been looking forward to tonight.