The Toronto Raptors are in Beantown tonight, looking for their third straight win at the expense of the Boston Celtics. The Raptors’ vibes and momentum are on the upswing, winners of three of their four games played in November, including the last two against Victor Wembanyama’s San Antonio Spurs and Luka Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks. A win against the Celtics will push the Raptors above the .500 mark for the first time since the season’s first game, but this is not the Celtics that the Raptors are accustomed to.
The Celtics may be coming off a back-to-back, but it’s a home back-to-back for them, and last night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets was light work, finishing the Nets 121-107. The Raptors will have their hands full trying to contain the Celtics’ dynamic duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but the new faces in Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis may catch the Raptors off guard.
Tatum is averaging 27.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, while Brown is chipping in 22.3 points for the Celtics. All-Defense 2nd Team O.G. Anunoby will have his hands full and will need the rest of the team to step up defensively if they want to slow those two guys down.
Luckily for the Raptors, Pascal Siakam might be rounding out to form — or to the system, as he looked good against the Mavericks, posting his best game of the season with 31 points, 12 boards, and five assists. Scottie Barnes did not have a good shooting night against the Mavericks, but he’s been having a breakout season, as his 21.5 points, 10.4 boards, six dimes, and 4.6 stocks feel like it doesn’t do justice to the type of jump he’s made so far this season.
How to Watch:
TSN at 7 p.m. ET
Toronto: Dennis Schroder, Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Jakob Poeltl
Boston: Derrick White, Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday, Jayson Tatum, Kristaps Porzingis
Toronto: Christian Koloko (respiratory - out), Precious Achiuwa (groin - questionable)
Boston: Al Horford (knee - out), Neemias Queta (foot - out)
After a rocky start to the season, coach Darko Rajakovic has settled the team down, with the team looking better for the most part over the four games this month. They are putting up 20 points more (119.8 points per game) while shooting better from the perimeter (36.7%) and from the field overall (49.7%). The Celtics will put a test to that offense, as they limit their opponents to under 45%. There are still a lot of adjustments to make offensively, but coach Rajakovic’s starting to get his key players to their best spots more often than not, unlike last month.
Pascal Siakam was unleashed against the Mavs the other day, carving the Mavs in the paint:
Pascal Siakam has 29 & 11 with 5.5 left in the 3rd quarter.— Keerthika Uthayakumar (@keerthikau) November 9, 2023
28 of his 29 points have come in the paint, shooting 14-for-16. pic.twitter.com/SlUt6GO7E2
But is Siakam back? Coach Rajakovic’s offense has made Siakam a Christmas tree accessory for the most part in the half-court, getting Doc Rivers’ “Tobias Harris treatment” with his usage and shots within the confines of the half-court offense. It remains to be seen, but coach Rajakovic was willing to roll with Siakam’s “old ways” against the Mavs, and it’s fun to see Siakam and Barnes build chemistry playing off each other just like this:
Barnes has the ball at the top of the nail. Runs over to the corner & Siakam moves away from the corner & notices Kyrie's head turned (3s). V-cuts downhill to the hoop and because Luka had his head turned is easy buckets. If def noticed & rotated P is still in good post position. pic.twitter.com/NWPbftWXEJ— Hopeful_TTF_Maple (@Hopeful_01_TTF) November 9, 2023
It’s Not a Siakam vs Barnes
The evidence was there last year, and there were plenty of moments this season where Siakam and Barnes showed that they could play off each other. Just because they prefer to operate in the same area doesn’t mean there’s not enough room for both of them. It’s up to the coach to get creative on utilizing these two excellent players to maximize their production offensively. At the same time, this front office should be looking at finding the right “three other players” that can complement this pairing, as so far, they haven’t done a good job putting the right players around Siakam for the past few seasons.