A second go-around with the Raptors comes tonight. Let’s look at what to watch out for in this one.
Shaq is Back: Shaquille O’Neal has sat out the last two games, but he should be back in the lineup against Toronto this evening.
Obviously Shaq has the attention of a lot of fans, but I’ll be watching him in particular tonight. Why? I thought Jermaine O’Neal had a chance to assert himself and lay claim to the starting center spot with Shaq out of the lineup. Then JO fouled out of the Knicks game pretty quickly, and failed to assert himself once again.
JO has been solid on the defensive end, but it still looks like he is stuck in last year’s playoffs on offense. With that in mind, it looks like the starting role is now Shaq’s to lose. He has seemed to mesh better than expected with Rondo and the Big Three, and with three preseason games remaining now is the time to continue to develop that cohesion.
On the defensive: The key to beating the Raptors? Make them play your game.
For the Celtics, that means a low-scoring, defensive affair. This Raptors team can only beat the Celtics in a shootout. Now is the time for the Celtics to show they can enforce their will upon an inferior opponent. Last year the Celtics let a few games slip against easy competition. We all remember the fans at the Garden booing after a blowout to Washington, and the revelation from Kendrick Perkins that the Celtics didn’t seem to care so much about the regular season as they were gearing up for the playoffs.
That was frustrating from a fan’s point of view, but it turned out to be the truth. The team turned it on and made a surprising run to the NBA Finals. But this team should win games against a team like the Raptors.
If that is going to happen, the Celtics will need to defend the Raptors’ pair of quick guards, Leandro Barbosa and Jarrett Jack, better than they did in the last outing. The pair combined for 34 of the Raptors’ 87 point and are both keys for the Toronto offense. Let’s see if the Celtics can keep them in check this time around.
Any room for Harangody?: A little more depth up front means that Luke Harangody probably won’t be on the court as much tonight. But will Doc Rivers find a spot for him out there after his performance in New York?
Harangody was sensational and instrumental in the Celtics’ comeback, finishing with 16 points and 12 rebounds—all in the second half. The rookie was very aggressive and looked like he belonged out there. Let’s see if he can build on that performance.