Raptors-Celtics: Preseason Rematch, Positives For Both Teams

Stephen Brotherston@@ProBballNBAAnalyst IOctober 19, 2009

TORONTO- APRIL 24:  Andrea Bargnani #7 of the Toronto Raptors shoots a free throw in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New Jersey Nets during the 2007 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre on April 24, 2007 in Toronto, Canada.  The Raptors won 89-83.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Dave Abel/Getty Images)

OK, both teams did not win the game. But both teams should be happy with the result.  Certain players on the Raptors may disagree, but that’s not the story here.  Neither was the final score of 101 Celtics, 82 Raptors.

For three quarters of the game, when the players who will be playing during the season were playing in lineups fans will actually get to watch, the Raptors played the Celtics even.  If the Raptors could have hit their foul shots, they would have even been leading in the game when it mattered.

This doesn’t mean the Celtics played poorly. The Celtics are as good as advertised. A big, strong veteran team with great leadership. They will easily win the Atlantic and should be in the Eastern Conference finals.

But to quote Rasheed Wallace, “I’m slow!”  If anyone thinks this 35-year-old veteran is more than a nice depth piece, they really haven’t been watching the Pistons for the past three years.  Fortunately for the Celtics, Wallace is not the key figure on the Celtics that media coverage suggests. 

There were some really good signs for the Raptors in this game. There were a few areas of concern as well.

Each time out Hedo Turkoglu has shown the fans signs of why he was so valuable on the Magic for the last five seasons.  Today in 27 minutes, Turkoglu had 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go with his five boards and three assists.

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And unlike his first two preseason games, Turkoglu started fast with a rebound, followed by scoring the Raptors first two baskets, then assisting on the Raptors next two made shots. It was Hedo’s play that keep the score 8-9 in the first four minutes and helped set the early tone for the Raptors.

For the first time this preseason, Turkoglu looked comfortable on the floor.  He played better defense and struggled less on the offensive end.  There remains lots of room to get back to in mid-season form, but Hedo Turkoglu looked like he could be the most valuable Raptor on the floor this season.  We’ll see!

Jay Triano continues to tryout the two point guard line-up this preseason.  But to this point it would be hard to say the experiment has seen much success.  The rationale for putting an extra ball handler on the floor does have merit in some circumstances, but this experiment seems more driven by trying to find additional minutes for the team’s new five-million per year player, Jarrett Jack.

Today at the 4:13 mark of the first quarter, Jack joined Calderon on the floor with the score 17-18 Boston.  At the 2:26 mark, Calderon comes out with the score now 17-25 Boston and the team had managed an ugly three turnovers and three fouls.  This result isn’t that unusual so far.

The preseason conclusion should be that Belinelli provides better shooting from the shooting guard spot than Jack and Weems provides more athleticism.  It’s hard to see how the team is better off with Jack at the two in most cases.

This idea of using Jack at the two appears to go back to Bryan Colangelo’s introduction of Jack to the media, so it’s probably going to continue for a while.  Hopefully, Calderon and Jack can either be proven effective on the floor together or Triano convinces Jack that just being the backup point guard is how he can best help the team.  This process just can’t take too long.

Raptors big man Andrea Bargnani played like a big man against one of the most physical centers in the league in Kendrick Perkins.  This was far more important than Bargnani’s 13 points, three boards and two blocks.  Bargnani was a force today.

Bargnani did foul out in this game and at least of couple of fouls were suspect (replacement referee fouls).  But unlike the first preseason game in Boston, Bargnani didn’t let anyone push him around this time.  It was good to see.

Bosh had good numbers but not a particularly good game.  CB4 continues to struggle covering the Celtics big men in the post.  It looks more like Bosh’s mental preparedness isn’t keeping up with his improving physical conditioning. Of course, the Celtics have one of the toughest group of big men to cover in the NBA.

The good news was Bosh played for 31 minutes and got to the free throw line a dozen times.  There is no reason to worry about Bosh not being ready for the home opener.

While Amir Johnson was outplayed by Pops on Thursday night, against the Celtics, he was totally over-matched.  Johnson did not have a good afternoon.  Jay Triano pulled Johnson off the floor after just a minute and a half in the first quarter.  He was playing that badly!

It’s likely the only reason Johnson saw the floor again was because of a poor performance by Nesterovic. He was managing an 0 for 5 afternoon with two boards and a line of zeros.

The DeRozan, Weems, Belinelli trio faced some tough defenders but did little to help or hurt their respective cases for minutes in the rotation.  Possibly DeRozan is coming along a little faster in his development but it’s still too early to be sure.

This game was tied early in the third at 54 and the Raptors were playing well.  But after Bargnani got his fifth personal foul and was replaced by Johnson. Then the two point guard, Calderon/ Jack experiment was briefly implemented again. And the Raptors shooting went cold while Boston continued to score.

Triano tried to stop the trend by putting Bargnani back in, and he did score again, just before fouling out.

Boston was up by 10 at the end of three.

Jay Triano started the fourth quarter with Patrick O’Bryant at center having run out of viable big man options.  The Raptors really missed Reggie Evans on this day.

With about seven minutes to go and the Raptors down by 12 points, Triano was just making sure everyone on the bench got some playing time.

For most of the fourth quarter fans witnessed Boston’s second and third string beating up on Toronto’s second and third string.  Reminding everyone why most fans aren’t willing to pay regular season ticket prices to watch preseason games.  The empty platinum seats reminding us that a lot of fans don’t even show up to watch in seats that are already paid for.

But the good news was that for most of the game, most of the players expected to have key roles this season held their own against the regular rotation players of an elite team.

Jay Triano and his staff still have lots of work to do with this group.  But in this afternoon’s game, fans got a glimpse of just how good the Raptors will be this season.  Raptors’ fans have a lot to look forward to.


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