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Celtics: OUT: Kevin Garnett (calf), Kendrick Perkins (knee), Delonte West (wrist)
SHOCKING UPDATE: Rajon Rondo is playing in this game.
Thumbnail: Oh man, is it Raptors Week again already? For the second and last time this season, the C’s meet the Canadian Representatives for two games within five days of each other. As you’ll recall, the C’s split the last Raptors Week, falling by a single point in the first game after a failed Pierce buzzer-beater and winning the second game handily in the temporary return of Rajon Rondo.
Since then, the Raptors have been up to pretty much the same thing as the C’s: watching helplessly as all of their players get horribly injured. Like the Celtics, the Raptors are short 3/5s of their starters, including Andrea Bargnani, who in November replaced Sacco and Vanzetti as Italy’s most famous Boston-killer.
29 PTS, 13 FTA, 2 REB
The Celtics don’t have to worry about Bargs tonight, but they’ve more than evened the score with their own injury list. Whatever happens tonight, it should be borderline unwatchable.
Here’s what to look forward to in this one, other than the bonus National Anthem.
WHAT THE RAPTORS DO WELL
Confuse and confound. The C’s, representing order, have at times run into trouble against the chaos brought by the Raptors. You’ve been reminded dozens of times that the Raptors are an athletic, amorphous squad with a lot of players who can do pretty much anything at a mediocre level. DeRozan, Weems, Bayless, and Wright all occupy very similar all-around skill sets, but you could theoretically see them all on the court at the same time, because Project Runway’s Tim Gunn head coach Jay Triano likes to mix it up. The C’s, who tend to confine their players to specific roles, can have difficulty adapting to that brand of chaos in their defensive rotations. It also leads to a pretty nasty fast break for Toronto when they get motivated, and the C’s defense has demonstrated a clear preference for the half-court. That’s how they lost that last game, and it won’t be any easier tonight.
WHAT THE RAPTORS DO POORLY
Defend inside. The Raptors don’t really defend well from anywhere, but they defend especially not well around the basket. They’re sixth-worst at protecting the rim in terms of field-goal percentage, and a distant worst between the rim and ten-foot range. This may not matter with Bargani out, because he tends to execute his post defense from halfcourt. Amir Johnson, meanwhile, is not shabby on that end although he commits beaucoup fouls.
NOTE: Because we’ve been over these chuckleheads twice before, I’ll reserve the next two sections to players the Celtics didn’t see last Raptors Week.
PLAYERS THAT MAKE ME WORRY
Ed Davis? That’s a conditional worry, because Garnett would intimidate Davis out of the gym. But with Garnett out, Davis has a chance to make some hay under the basket: he’s a crafty, snakey inside scorer and a decent offensive rebounder. He pulls down a teammate’s miss, then shapeshifts around for a few seconds to find space, which he won’t have much trouble doing over his brother Glen Davis. Maybe the O’Neals will show up defensively today to take care of this mild threat.
Joey Dorsey? He was drafted two years ago and has since played for five different teams, including two stints in the NBDL. He’s a total jerk who said Greg Oden was “overrated” and “might be as good as Joey Dorsey” during the NCAA Tournament, later in which Oden held Dorsey to zero shot attempts. And he went to Memphis, a well known jerk factory except they somehow screwed up on Derrick Rose. Dorsey was supposed to be out of the league by now, but he’s taken advantage of the injury situation in Toronto, pulling down crazy boards and finishing them at the rim. He’ll start if Bargnani’s out, and he’s strong enough to hurt some people.
The people of Toronto. They are not happy. This is why:
I would not want to be wearing a shirt that says “Boston” in Toronto right now.
PLAYERS WHO DO NOT MAKE ME WORRY
Julian Wright. I kind of love Julian Wright because he is obsessed with bowling. This is him talking about his collection of bowling balls: “Some of them are on different axes and so it makes it different in terms of the hook. It could be a heavy hook or a light hook. I have a ball called the “spare ball” that’s not weighted on either side so it’s gonna bowl straight as long as you bowl it straight.”
So that’s great. But his career has been disappointing. He was picked 13th overall in ’07, ahead of perhaps a dozen superior players including Glen Davis, and he’s gradually seen his usage reduced to the point where he only gets about four attempts per game now. On the bright side, his reduced involvement in basketball gives him time to focus on that elusive 200 average.
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE TONIGHT
Remember how this section used to always be about the reserves stepping up and holding leads? They’re all reserves now. So tonight we need to see everyone not wearing a fancy suit to maintain focus and intensity for the whole game. With heads-up play and defensive awareness, the Raptors are totally beatable. But if the C’s get sloppy, these kids can run them off the court.