Tonight, the Toronto Raptors take on a new look Boston Celtics at the Air Canada Centre, hoping to start the season strong with a win. This Celtics team has a very different feel. No more Doc Rivers, no more Kevin Garnett, and no more Paul Pierce. This version of the Celtics is no longer old, no longer killers on the defensive end, and star-less without point guard Rajon Rondo, who is out with a torn ACL.
So, for your game day preview, we bring back the “Cage’s 5 keys to the game” and our X-Factor.
Cage’s 5 Keys To The Game:
1. Control The Paint
The Celtics have a couple of bigs that can give some trouble on the inside to Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson. Kris Humphries and Kelly Olynyk are all big fellas that do most of their work with their backs to the basket, or on the glass.
Controlling the key from both ends of the court will be huge, because most of Boston’s looks will come from the painted area. Take that away, and they’ll become perimeter oriented, an area where they’ll struggle without a consistent shot creator.
2. “Weather The Storm.”
The Celtics are a younger, and more explosive team compared to the prior season. With athletes like Marshon Brooks, Gerald Wallace, Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford and such, they can put the ball on the floor at any given time, and score in bunches. Because of their youth, athleticism, and scoring, they’ll be capable of putting together stops and go on a run. The Raps have got to be able to withstand the run, keep composure, and stick with their game-plan.
3. Get Jonas Involved Early
Look to dump the ball down to Jonas to establish an inside threat consistently throughout the game. Against guys like Humphries (undersized) and Olynyk (not a defensive player), Jonas should have advantages with his size. It will be interesting to see Jonas’ improved post game at work.
4. Spread The Floor
According to reports, Steve Novak should be good to go for tonight’s home opener, and has been shooting the ball well in practice. The Celtics’ perimeter players other than Wallace and Bradley aren’t known for their defense – it’s quite the opposite. Controlling the paint will be key number 1, and for that to work, the team will need to spread the floor.
Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, and DeMar DeRozan will all need to be ready to shoot, and hopefully hit that three. Terrence Ross will take his fair share of outside shots, and the three is D.J. Augustin‘s bread and butter (though he has been struggling with it).
5. Get Off To A Good Start
Getting off to a good start in this game is important, especially because this team is opening up the season at home. Early momentum is important, and that’ll all happen defensively. Coach Dwane Casey has emphasized this all training camp.
Keeping turnovers down will be important as well as the team was disastrous in that respect during the pre-season. If the Raps can get some energy, a young team like the Celtics will have a tough time getting back into it, especially against the best fans in the NBA.
Tonight’s X-Factor: Rudy Gay/DeMar DeRozan.
DeMar and Rudy will be tonight’s X-factors. Why? Because there’s no one on the Celtics roster that presents a tough match-up for either of them. If DeMar can establish himself down low like he has all pre-season early, along with the efficiency he’s been shooting at, than this team will flow much better offensively. If Rudy can create shots, play within the offense, and hit those perimeter jumpers, then the Celtics will have a very, very hard time simultaneously trying to stop the two.
The biggest factor though, will be the defensive play by the tandem. The C’s have a solid number of scoring wings in Brooks, Crawford, Lee, etc. so if DeMar and Rudy can keep them grounded, there will be no problem for the Raps tonight.