On the final day of the 2012-13 NBA regular season, the Boston Celtics will travel to play the Toronto Raptors. The Celtics have won each of the first three games between these two sides and are looking to complete the season sweep in this one.
Can they pull it off?
The Celtics enter this game at 41-39 overall and 14-26 on the road. After their game against the Indiana Pacers was cancelled due to the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, the Celtics' position in the Eastern Conference standings has been set.
As for the Raptors, they come in at 33-48 overall and 20-20 at home. Since the Rudy Gay trade, however, they're 16-18 and have managed to overcome injuries to make an impact on the playoff race.
So will Boston pull off the season sweep? Let's find out.
Time: Wednesday, April 17 at 8 p.m. EDT
TV: CSN New England & Sportsnet One
Records: Boston Celtics (41-39, 14-26 road) at Toronto Raptors (33-48, 20-20 home)
Betting Line: N/A
Boston Celtics Injury Report
Paul Pierce, Illness, Probable
Rajon Rondo, Torn Right ACL, Out
Jared Sullinger, Back Surgery, Out
Jason Terry, Sore Legs, Questionable
Toronto Raptors Injury Report
Andrea Bargnani, Sprained Right Elbow, Out
Landry Fields, Strep Throat, Probable
Key Storyline: Going for the Season Series Sweep
Entering this showdown, the Boston Celtics have already won three games against the Toronto Raptors in 2012-13. Two of those victories have come by double digits in one-sided affairs, while the third was a close, four-point win.
Bragging rights will certainly be on the line in this one.
The Raptors enter this game with a great deal of momentum for the 2013-14 season, as their perimeter trio of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay have led a turnaround. They've proven to be capable of taking down elite teams in their short time together.
The one team they've been unable to defeat, however, is the Celtics.
Boston has managed to take down Toronto no matter what the Raptors do. Whether the Celtics needed to put up 112 points or hold the Raptors to 88, they've done it all.
Can Toronto break the trend?
Key Matchup: DeMar DeRozan vs. Courtney Lee
No player has benefited from the arrival of Rudy Gay quite as much as shooting guard DeMar DeRozan. He is averaging 0.9 more points per game since the All-Star Break on .016 percent better shooting.
With those improvements, DeRozan is averaging 13.3 points on 38.5 percent shooting from the field.
A major reason for DeRozan's struggles against the Celtics is the fact that Courtney Lee has been placed upon him defensively. Much like he's had success against Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade, Lee has been able to lock down DeRozan.
If you've yet to understand this, it's due to the fact that Lee is an elite, on-ball defender against slashing scorers.
If DeRozan is able to provide a quality offensive output, the Raptors will be able to pull off the upset. If Lee is able to lock DeRozan down, however, we could see an entirely different story unfold.
It's a battle at the '2' in this one.
X-Factor: Amir Johnson, Toronto Raptors
Since the 2013 NBA All-Star Game, Toronto Raptors big man Amir Johnson has averaged 10.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. This has come by way of Toronto's improved perimeter game and Johnson's individual development down low.
If the Raptors are to win this game, they'll need Johnson to put that progression on full display.
Whether he's tasked with defending Brandon Bass or Kevin Garnett, Johnson will need to step out and defend from 15 to 23 feet away. Both players thrive in shooting the mid-range J, all the while possessing prowess on the offensive glass.
Fortunately, Johnson is averaging 9.3 rebounds over his past four games—consider him the perfect player to work it down low for this upset.
When the Boston Celtics travel to play the Toronto Raptors, there will be the understandable perception that they have nothing to play for. The truth of the matter is, the ailing Celtics are in dire need of a win to create momentum entering the postseason.
Who will win?
Don't expect Toronto to lay down for them.
The Raptors are looking to avoid a season series sweep against the Celtics, which is motivation enough for them to pull out this win. With Rudy Gay averaging 19.0 points since the trade deadline, they certainly have the star power to do it.
The fact that the Celtics could be looking to rest their players may be a factor in this one, as well.
With this in mind, the Celtics do have something to play for in this instance. They're desperate for momentum entering the playoffs and will likely be looking to honor those fallen in Boston with a win.
Both teams have something to fight for; it's just a matter of emotion taking charge.
Boston Celtics 96, Toronto Raptors 92