Matchup: Toronto Raptors vs. Boston Celtics
Records: Raptors (17-18), Celtics (18-17)
Where to Watch
Date: Thursday, March 4
Time: 7:00 p.m.
TV: TSN, Fox Sports Florida, NBC Sports Boston and NBA League Pass
* tv restrictions may apply
Location: TD Garden, Boston, MA
Three Things to Watch
To close the first half of the 2020-21 NBA season, the Raptors are in Boston to close out the season series with the Celtics.
In the first two meetings, Boston has gotten the best of Toronto, earning double-digit wins on Jan. 4 and Feb. 11. It gets no easier for the Raptors in the third and final meeting, as the team comes in on the second night of a back-to-back and, due to health and safety protocols, will be without three starters in OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet as well as several coaches, including head coach Nick Nurse.
Here are a few things to keep an eye on in this one:
1. Kyle Lowry's aggression
After finishing with 21 points (on 5-for-11 shooting) in Toronto's 24-point loss to the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night, Lowry expressed that he should have been more aggressive and shot the ball much more than he did considering the absence of three key contributors.
Instead, the 15-year vet looked to "play the right way just to keep everybody involved," which didn't yield great results as only six players scored in the game.
TAKEAWAYS: Shorthanded Raptors can't keep up with Pistons
On the offensive end, expect to see a much more aggressive Lowry in this one, as his scoring will be a big part of what gives the Raptors a chance. In Toronto's three wins over Boston in the 2020 postseason, Lowry averaged 28.7 points on 19.7 shot attempts per contest.
In the Raptors' last regular-season win over the Celtics? Lowry finished with 30 points on a night that his team was down two starters in Marc Gasol and Siakam (on Dec. 28, 2019). Early aggression from Lowry could dictate how this one goes.
2. Boston's trio
With Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Celtics are one of seven teams that have more than one All-Star this season.
Both young wings have been incredible up to this point of the season, with Brown posting averages of 24.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game and Tatum averaging 24.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists on a nightly basis.
While that duo provides enough problems itself, the team's third star has begun to look better and better as of late.
MORE: Tatum has been money in the clutch
After missing the first 11 games of the season, Kemba Walker didn't exactly look like himself once he got into the action this year, shooting just 34.2 percent from the field and 30.6 percent from deep in his first 10 games back.
In nine games since, Walker is averaging 22.7 points per game while shooting 43.5 percent from the field and 42.2 percent from deep, and he's taking over nine threes per game. The Celtics' current three-game win streak kicked off with a 32-point performance from Walker and he's coming off of a 25-point night in a win over the LA Clippers.
Toronto will have its hands full on the defensive end.
3. Which others will step up?
Lowry tried to get them involved but the Raptors needed much more from their rotational guys.
Lowry (21), Norman Powell (36), Chris Boucher (18), Aron Baynes (13) and Matt Thomas (11) combined to score 99 of the team's 105 points, while the other four players shot a combined 2-for-21 (9.5 percent) from the field, with Terence Davis scoring all six of the remaining points.
Yuta Watanabe, DeAndre Bembry and Paul Watson failed to score during their time on the floor. Following the game, acting head coach Sergio Scariolo told reporters that those players "will have other opportunities and I'm confident that they'll seize those opportunities," while Lowry shared that he felt "guys were overly anxious to do a lot more and try to pick up the slack for others."
Toronto's chance to win hinges upon the players that will again be trusted with a larger role.
To a lesser extent, the same applies to the Celtics, who benefitted from role players stepping up in the last meeting. In February's win over the Raptors, Brown and Tatum combined to shoot 9-for-27 from the field but Semi Ojeleye and Payton Pritchard knocked down six 3s apiece to combine for 44 points.
Toronto might not have as much of the personnel to make life difficult for Boston's stars but the secondary players have shown the ability to step up if the stars struggle.
Raptors vs. Celtics: Betting odds, spread, over/under
Spread: Raptors +8.0 (-110), Celtics -8.0 (-110)
Celtics Money Line: -345
Raptors Money Line: +285
Over/under: 218.0 (-110)
*Odds courtesy of William Hill Sports Book
Per the NBA's Official Injury Report on Wednesday, March 4 at 8:30 p.m.
Not yet submitted
Romeo Langford (right wrist surgery rehab) - Out
Marcus Smart (left calf tear) - Out
Last Time They Played
Date: Feb. 11, 2021
Score: Celtics 120, Raptors 106
Celtics: Semi Ojeleye - 24 PTS (6-8 3FG), 6 REB in 30 MIN
Raptors: Kyle Lowry - 24 PTS (10-15 FG), 6 AST in 32 MIN
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