Sunday, January 2, 2011
Game 32: Celtics vs. Raptors
By Chris Forsberg
at Air Canda Centre | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)
||(24-7, 11-5 away)
||-- vs. --
|| (11-21, 7-9 home)
GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
Having lost nearly as many games this past week as they did the first two months of the season, the injuries appear to be starting to catch up with the Boston Celtics.
The Atlantic Division leaders are unlikely to receive any sympathy from the Toronto Raptors.
The Celtics, who again might be without star point guard Rajon Rondo, try to avoid losing three straight games for the first time this season Sunday night against a banged-up Raptors team that only had eight healthy players its last time out.
Rondo has missed Boston's last seven games after spraining his left ankle in New York on Dec. 15. The NBA leader with 13.8 assists per game went through a workout before Friday's game against New Orleans and was sitting on the bench during pregame warmups, but coach Doc Rivers said he wasn't ready yet.
The Celtics (24-7) were also without forward Kevin Garnett after he strained a right calf in Wednesday's disappointing 104-92 loss to Detroit, and ended up losing to the Hornets 83-81. Garnett is expected to be out two weeks, but Rondo's return could be imminent.
Despite injuries to two of the team's best players, Boston nearly beat New Orleans but Ray Allen's 3-point bid missed in the closing seconds.
A near victory means little to Rivers, who saw his team lose for the third time in four contests following a 14-game winning streak.
"I told the guys after the game that I'm not happy, we should have won the game," Rivers said.
"I heard guys saying somebody needs to step up. Nobody needs to step up. The guys just need to do what they can do."
Allen led Boston with 18 points Friday, but Paul Pierce didn't have one of his better games, finishing with 12 points and a season-high six turnovers.
"Regardless of the injuries, we've still got to show up and play," Pierce said. "There's no moral victories."
The Raptors (11-21) are fully aware of how difficult it is to win with injuries.
Toronto was without Andrea Bargnani (strained left calf), Peja Stojakovic (swollen left knee), Reggie Evans (broken foot) and Sonny Weems (back spasms) in Friday's 115-105 loss to Houston, and Jerryd Bayless played only eight minutes in the first half before re-aggravating a left ankle sprain.
Stojakovic, Evans, Weems and Bayless are likely to be out again, but Bargnani's status is uncertain for the Raptors, losers of 10 of 13. Bargnani, Toronto's leading scorer at 21.2 points, has missed three straight and five of the last seven games.
Read the full preview HERE.
FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
- Bounce back for Baby? Glen Davis drew much of the ire for Friday's loss to New Orleans after his ill-advised late-game 3-point attempt and coach Doc Rivers wasn't exactly bashful about calling him out on it (both on the floor and off). On Saturday, Davis celebrated his 25th birthday. A new year and a year older, can Davis turn the page and get back to being "The Ticket Stub" we're used to seeing in Kevin Garnett's absence?
- Remember last time: The last time Boston ventured north of the border, they were without Rondo on the first game of a back-to-back and watched Paul Pierce's game-winning attempt find iron as the Raptors emerged with a head-shaking 102-101 triumph on Nov. 21. The Celtics are 7-1 on the first games of back-to-backs this season, that lone loss coming against the Raptors.
- Focus on the glass: In two meetings this year, Toronto has dominated the rebound category (averaging seven more rebounds per game than Boston). A KG-less Celtics will need to find a way to remain competitive on the boards. Boston also needs to limit second-chance points, with Toronto averaging 15 per game in the two previous meetings.