The Celtics visit our friends north of the border Wednesday (7 p.m., CSN) when they play the Toronto Raptors.
But this Raptors team has a different look than the one the C’s beat up on earlier this season – and have beaten up on for the past five-plus seasons.
Toronto recently traded starting guard Jose Calderon to Detroit and third-year forward Ed Davis to the Grizzlies in return for Grizzlies swingman Rudy Gay.
Gay, who averages 17.5 points and 5.8 rebounds, is clearly the best player in the deal today (look for Davis to eventually become the best player in the deal) and makes the Raptors better at least for now. That said, it’s probably too little too late for Toronto this season, which goes into tonight’s game with a record of 17-31, 11th in the Eastern Conference.
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With Calderon gone, the Raptors can finally give point guard Kyle Lowry the minutes he needs. Lowry, who was traded to the Raptors over the offseason, had been splitting time with Calderon coming off the bench, and didn’t seem to be clicking with his teammates enough. Now, a lineup featuring Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Gay, Andrea Bargnani (when he returns from elbow injury) and rookie 7-footer Jonas Valanciunas, doesn’t look that bad.
In two games since Gay’s arrival, the Raptors beat the Clippers and lost to the Heat. Gay scored 20 and 29 points, respectively, in those games.
There will be growing pains for Toronto. The Celtics, however, haven’t experienced any pain since Rajon Rondo was lost for the season.
Boston is 4-0 without him so far, and inexplicably has been playing its best basketball in his absence. The C’s are scoring more points and allowing fewer points over the last four games than what they averaged in the 43 games before. And believe it or not, they’re averaging more assists per game without Rondo.
While the loss of Jared Sullinger hurts on the glass, the Raptors are just as bad as Boston at rebounding– so don’t look for that to be an issue Wednesday.
Instead, look to see how guards Lowry and DeRozan attack Boston’s point guard-less group, and if Paul Pierce and Jeff Green can contain Gay.
These two teams are going through major midseason changes, but Boston still has the edge.