1/18/12

Raptors Face The Struggling Celtics

The Raptors only division championship came in the last season the Celtics were struggling like this. Boston at the time was a lot like the Raptors are now. They like many Raptor fans are this year were hoping to hit the lottery. The big prize in that lottery was suppose to be a dominant big man out of Ohio State named Greg Oden. The Celtics would fail to win that lottery and in the end that was the genius for the creation of the "Big 3". The Celtics stripped away their young core to bring in Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. It was enough to convince Paul Pierce to stay. The fact they lost the lottery had a dynamic impact on them and the entire Atlantic Division including the Ratpors. We can only guess how both teams futures would have been if the Celtics got their man in Oden. Something to think about for the people cheering for Raptor losses this season.

But at the time I had said the Celtics would have a 3-5 year window to win NBA Championships. The window is closing. That creation of the Big 3 in Boston is also credited for the creation of what we see in Miami today. Lebron James, Chris Bosh and D-Wade said one of the factors in them coming together was the fact as individuals they could not get passed the Celtics. Another thing that came out of those moves was the emergence of Rajon Rondo. At the time many people did not think Rondo was good enough to play with these 3 superstars. He has emerged as a superstar himself and now likely the most important piece of the Celtics puzzle. Despite that it was rumoured the Celtics were shopping him hard prior to the season. How the potential end of big three era may have started is with a trade with OKC. Kendrick Perkins who would be the other starter on that original cast was moved to OKC at the deadline last season. It seemed to cut the soul out of the Celtics and they have yet to be the same since. Health concerns have sidelined the big piece the Celtics got in that trade in Jeff Green.

All of that is the history behind how we got to where we see the 4-10 Raptors taking on the 4-8 Celtics both losers of 5 straight basketball games. When you look a little closer though the level of competition in the Celtics losses has been far greater. Losses to Dallas, Chicago, OKC and twice to the improved Pacers. Part of the Celtics decline has been the lack of presence in the middle. J.O who Raptors fans will remember is their starting Center. He is no spring chicken himself. Shaq who Boston brought in last year is now trade jokes with Barkley, Kenny and Ernie on TNT. A nice move the Celtics did make though is flipping "Big Baby" Glen Davis to Orlando for a more consistent Brandon Bass.

3 Keys:

It Is All About Rondo: Now the Raptors against a superior point guard in Derrick Rose were able to bust out a zone and use it effectively. Against Rajon Rondo that might not work as well. Not because Rondo is better than Rose but because of the weapons Rondo has on the floor with him. Ray Allen at the top of that list. While the Celtics don't have the depth of outside shooters they have had in the past they do have quality. Rondo in a 1 on 1 match-up with Jose Calderon is a complete mismatch.

Who We Got?: No Bargnani is the word for this one. But the Raptors could have Bayless, Johnson and Gray who all have practised with the team. That is right I did say practice. In a season that has had few of those Raptors were able to have one. This was a season made for Allen Iverson there will be so few practices it will not be funny. Raptors unlike A.I could sure use a few.

Demar DeRozan needs to be Demar DeRozan: Things have been tough on Demar. Even threw out a tweet about how in tough times you find out who your real fans are. Some of those people that may seem like haters might just be concerned fans. They also could just be fickle haters. But that is not the issue. What is the issue is, that Demar needs to get back to playing more like he has in the past. Stick to what you do well and don't go beyond it. Ray Allen has always been a tough match-up for Demar and maybe that will bring out the best in him. We can only hope. If not DeRozan could find nothing but haters and tough love until he finds the answer.

So someone has to win and to be honest the pressure to be that team is more on the Celtics than the Raptors. There were no Celtics fans cheering for their team to make the lottery this season. I just want to say the Celtics do have some great fans as well. I remember watching a game and Boston was down like 20 and the fans were cheering trying to fire them up to make a comeback. When is the last time that happened at the ACC? I have never once heard a Boston fan boo because they didn't get pizza. Something to think about. However should Boston some how lose to the Raptors tonight you may just hear some boos even from those faithful fans. Game starts at 7:30 and can be found on Sportsnet.

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