Records: Raptors (1-4), Celtics (4-3)
Where to Watch
Date: Monday, Jan. 4, 2021
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Amalie Arena, Tampa FL
For the first time since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Toronto Raptors are set to take on the Boston Celtics.
The Raptors are technically hosting the Celtics this time, although the game is taking place just an hour away from Walt Disney World, where the teams took the floor for seven games of a series that was an instant classic. Although it’s only been four months, plenty has changed since.
The Raptors, who are off to a 1-4 start to the season, are in search of answers after posting the best regular-season winning percentage in franchise history in 2019-20.
Toronto can attribute its troubling start to a number of things but the most glaring concerns surround the team’s uncharacteristically inefficient offence, poor showings in the second half and a slow start to the season from Pascal Siakam.
Over four games, Siakam is averaging 16.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists while shooting 39.4% from the field and 28.0% from deep, fouling out in two of the four contests, while he sat out of Toronto’s lone win of the season for disciplinary reasons.
In Toronto’s most recent outing, Siakam finished with just 10 points (on 4-for-10 shooting) and four rebounds in 25 minutes as the team suffered a four-point loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Siakam will look to get back on track against a Celtics team that made life difficult for him in the postseason, giving him different defensive looks from Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.
|2020 East Semis||7||40.7||14.9||6.0||38.2||0.6||12.5||2.3||72.7||7.4||3.3||2.1|
It was Kyle Lowry that kept the Raptors afloat in the Celtics series, something he’s tried to do this season with averages of 18.8 points, 8.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds through the opening stretch. Lowry, along with OG Anunoby, will likely be tasked with slowing down Tatum, who is coming off of hitting his second game-winner of the season to lift the Celtics past the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.
🔥 GO-AHEAD JUMPER.
🚫 BLOCK AT THE BUZZER.
🚨 TATUM WINS IT ON BOTH ENDS. pic.twitter.com/TlPwQ7VuQ3
– NBA (@NBA) January 3, 2021
Tatum finished with 24 points, a career-high 12 assists and eight rebounds and the game-winner but it was Brown that led all scorers with 31 points on ridiculous 13-for-16 shooting from the field, with all three of his misses coming from beyond the arc.
Brown looks to be making an All-Star leap this season as his most recent showing comes just four days after he exploded for 42 points in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Brown’s efficient scoring has been crucial for the Celtics, who are still without All-Star Kemba Walker.
Smart is starting in Walker’s absence while Jeff Teague and rookie guard Payton Pritchard have also assumed ballhandling responsibilities in leading the second unit. As it is the second end of a back-to-back for the Celtics, head coach Brad Stevens could look deeper into the bench to preserve the legs of his players.
With a desperate Raptors team meeting a divisional foe, expect yet another highly-contested game.
The Celtics have yet to submit their injury report for Monday
Patrick McCaw (Left Knee rehabilitation) – Out
– The Toronto Raptors offensive rating of 101.8 ranks 28th in the NBA
– In the Raptors four losses, they have been outscored 238-191 in the second half
– Fred VanVleet has made at least one 3-pointer in 37 consecutive games (Dec. 20, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2020), the second-longest streak in franchise history behind C.J. Miles, who made a 3-pointer in 38 consecutive games during the 2017-18 season.
– Aron Baynes appeared in 132 regular-season games with the Boston Celtics from 2017-19
– Celtics centre Tristan Thompson was born in Brampton, ON while assistant coach Scott Morrison hails from Morrell, Prince Edward Island.
Last Time They Played
Date: Aug. 7, 2020
Score: Celtics 122, Raptors 100
Celtics: Jaylen Brown – 20 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists
Raptors: Fred VanVleet – 13 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists
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