The Boston Celtics take to the road to face the Toronto Raptors for the fourth time on the season. The Celtics currently hold the season series lead with a 2-1 record against the Raptors so far.
- Boston Celtics (37-23) vs Toronto Raptors (44-17)
- Tuesday, February 26th at 8:00 pm ET
- Point Spread: Raptors (-3.5)
- Point Total: 227
Boston Celtics Prediction
Despite losing back to back games heading into tonight, the Boston Celtics have a tendency to play to the level of competition that they face and pose a dangerous threat for the Raptors. One of the most talented rosters from top to bottom in the NBA, the Celtics biggest issue is the fact that they are struggling to get everyone the minutes they need. This leads to inconsistent play from everyone not named Kyrie Irving.
Although they do drop some inexcusable games to lesser teams, the Celtics have a tendency to compete hard with other elite NBA units. The biggest issue with the Celtics latest struggles has been their inability to defend. Typically one of the strongest defensive teams in the NBA under coach Brad Stevens, since February rolled around the Celtics have only flashed their elite defense on rare occasions. Outside of a war against the Bucks in which they held Milwaukee to just 97 points, the Celtics have only held the lowly Knicks and Cavaliers to less than 100 points.
Their recent losses have almost certainly coincided with the injury to Gordon Hayward. After starting the year slow while working back from his gruesome leg injury, Hayward had finally started to find his groove off the bench as an extremely effective sixth man. Hayward steadily saw his shooting percentage go up on the year before skyrocketing to 55% in February. Hayward is back after tweaking his ankle and while he looked a little rusty in his return, that was to be somewhat expected.
Expect the Celtics to come into the matchup dialed in tonight, but they will undoubtedly need a major effort from Hayward to pull off the upset in this one. Although Toronto boasts one of the deadliest starting lineups in the NBA, they kill teams when the bench comes in and don’t offer teams a chance to ever catch up. If Hayward (or Terry Rozier or really anyone from the bench) can control the game when the Raptors starters are resting, they can turn this into the gritty back and forth affair the Celtics are hoping for.
Toronto Raptors Prediction
The Raptors are coming off an embarrassing loss of their own to the Orlando Magic. After rattling off 6 straight wins, the Raptors sat Kawhi Leonard and were dominated from the jump by the Magic. With Leonard in the rotation, the Raptors are a finely tuned machine on the defensive side of the ball. New addition Marc Gasol seems to be fitting in nicely with his new squad as well. With Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam offering two supremely athletic rim runners and Kyle Lowry playing the #2 to Leonard’s top dog on offense, the Raptors boast one of the most dynamic two-way units in the league.
Leonard is having an incredible season and putting up career-best averages in points, rebounds, and assists. Each season Leonard has seemingly added to his offensive skill-set and this year, he seems to be increasingly comfortable in a ball-dominant facilitator role. While his assist numbers don’t jump off the page (3.3 per game per Basketball Reference) Leonard’s multi-level scoring ability is crucial to opening up the offense and he is an extremely willing passer.
While the Raptors defense is undoubtedly one of the best in the league, Kyle Lowry does provide a relatively weak link. Lowry isn’t necessarily a bad defender, just not at the level of Leonard or Ibaka and Siakam. Being that Boston’s primary offensive weapon is going to be going toe to toe with Lowry, he’ll need to be on his A game in order to slow Irving down. The Raptors probably should win this game, but if Lowry can make Irving work for his buckets, they’ll most likely cover with ease.
Raptors vs Celtics Spread Prediction
Both teams are coming off a loss and both will be locked into what should be an epic battle of Eastern Conference heavyweights. That said, Kyrie Irving is mad and I don’t see Kyle Lowry being able to consistently shut him down. Irving has the ability to keep a team in a game all by himself and frankly, I think that will happen tonight. The Raptors probably will still win, but with 3.5 points being laid, I feel confident that Boston will at least keep this one fairly close.