The Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors tip off the NBA’s Christmas Day present to its fans with a matchup at Scotiabank Arena.
It truly is impressive how well both of these teams have managed to perform despite several key injuries to their star players. Boston, without Gordon Hayward for much of the year and Marcus Smart going in and out of the lineup, has been defeated just seven times.
The Celtics play numerous rookies off the bench with their core, and nobody seems to miss a beat. They may need to solidify the center position at the trade deadline, but they are good to go besides that. Coach Brad Stevens is a gem.
And how about Raptors coach Nick Nurse? Kyle Lowry missed three weeks, while Serge Ibaka was also out, and the Raptors kept on winning. They rallied from 30 down late in the third quarter to beat Dallas when they did not have Norman Powell, Marc Gasol, or their best player, Pascal Siakam.
Nurse is working wonders with a veteran team that has continued to be laden with injuries. Unfortunately, all three of those players will likely be out for this game, and it is likely because of how many minutes they have played this season. Next man up.
The spread for this holiday battle will favor the healthier Celtics by 2.5 points, while the over/under is set at 213.5.
Looking For Holiday Cheer
The Celtics will be without Rob Williams and Vincent Poirier, likely keeping Tacko Fall on the active roster behind Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter. Smart and Hayward will have a shot at playing. If Smart is able to suit up, that is trouble for Toronto, which is now relying heavily on its backcourt for scoring.
Though his shooting percentage has been down this year, Jayson Tatum is having his best season to date. The third-year man is posting 22 points and seven boards per game, while Kemba Walker is averaging 23 points, four rebounds and five assists. Jaylen Brown is also averaging 20 points and seven boards per game.
Theis has protected the rim effectively with 1.6 rejections per contest, playing a huge part in the success of Stevens’ team. For many, this is just another game, but it will be telling how the Celtics handle a motivated Raptors team.
Hoping For Bench Help
Toronto managed to win as normal while Lowry and Ibaka were out, as well as while Fred VanVleet was missing games. The Raptors need to find a way to keep it going without their anchors and bench leader. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Ibaka will step in as starters as Siakam and Gasol recover, with Patrick McCaw taking on a bigger role without Powell.
The Raptors are also without sharpshooter Matt Thomas, who would have benefitted from the playing time and opportunities. They lost a tough one to Indiana on Monday, so the Raptors will be focused on avoiding a losing skid.
Lowry and VanVleet are more than capable of leading, and we’ll see how they do against an elite Celtics group.
Boston Wins A Close One
Toronto will keep it close, but fail to close it out. Boston earns the Christmas win.
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