BOSTON (CBS) – While the Boston Celtics have their new-look squad rolling, they face a tough test Wednesday night against another new-look team in the NBA.
The Toronto Raptors have lost nine of their last 12, but have split their two contests since completing a three-team deal that landed them swingman Rudy Gay. He scored 20 points in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers, coming off the bench, and 29 in his first start – a loss to the Miami Heat.
Toronto sits at just 17-31 for the season, but Gay gives them a true go-to scorer, something they’ve lacked for some time. Paired with point guard Kyle Lowry and forward Demar DeRozan, the Celtics defense will have their hands full.
Read: Celtics-Raptors Preview
“They’re better,” Rivers said of the Raptors at Boston’s practice on Wednesday. “They’ve added a great scorer to a team that could already score, even though they hadn’t been scoring much this year. And Lowry, now full-time, they’re running a lot more. So, they’re really pushing the pace.”
“He’s bringing a spark to that city,” Kevin Garnett said of Gay, who has seen a few face-paced highlights from the new-look Raptors. “That’s the first thing that stands out when I watch them.”
So it will be up to the Celtics to slow that pace Wednesday night. It’s something they’ve done well defensively over their four-game win streak, minus a few hiccups in their Sunday win over the Clippers. The Lowry-Avery Bradley matchup will be one to watch, as Lowry’s offense has been up-and-down in his three games since taking over the starting point guard spot. But when he hasn’t scored he’s been able to dish out the assists, and now with Gay in addition to DeRozan, he’ll be that much more dangerous as a distributor.
On the offensive end, the key for Boston will be to continue their amazing ball movement without Rajon Rondo on the floor. With everyone getting their touches, they’re playing a much looser and somewhat unpredictable offense, which has led to stellar results over the last two weeks. They’re running in transition and guys are moving without the ball, because they now know that chances are they’ll actually get at least one touch on any given possession.
Toronto is on the outside looking in to the playoffs, with the Celtics still holding that eighth and final spot, but with a new offensive leader in Gay, they’ll pose a tough test for Boston up north. The Celtics can’t look ahead to their Thursday night prime-time matchup with the Lakers, or they’ll see their four-game winning streak come to an end.