Toronto at Boston
When: 7:30 PM ET, Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Where: TD Garden, Boston, Mass
The Boston Celtics will try to achieve their first five-game winning streak of the season when they host the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday in a matchup of Eastern Conference hopefuls. The teams enter February separated by a half-game in the East and within shouting distance of first-place Cleveland, but they aren’t necessarily trending in the same direction.
Boston has leaped ahead of Toronto on the strength of four straight wins, matching a run it has accomplished two other times since mid-December, while the Raptors will once again play without leading scorer DeMar DeRozan (ankle) as they seek consecutive victories for the first time in two weeks. Isaiah Thomas remains the catalyst for the Celtics and continues to do loads of damage when it counts most, scoring 24 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter of Monday’s 113-109 win over Detroit at home. “[Detroit] kind of kept us off-balance with their coverages, and so we just tried to get him off the ball some,” coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “And then when he got going late, he just got going, so it didn’t matter if he was off the ball or on the ball. He was unbelievable.” The Raptors, who have won the first two meetings, needed overtime to pick up just their second win in eight games Tuesday night at home, recording a 108-106 triumph over New Orleans.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, Sportsnet One (Toronto), CSN New England (Boston)
ABOUT THE RAPTORS (30-19): DeRozan returned from a three-game absence to score 22 points against Orlando on Sunday, but coach Dwane Casey ruled him out for Tuesday’s win, as well as the visit to Boston. Kyle Lowry has been up to the task in filling the void and reached the 30-point plateau in three straight games for the first time in his career. Norman Powell took DeRozan’s spot in the starting lineup and is averaging 18.5 points in those four games, nearly three times his season average.
ABOUT THE CELTICS (30-18): Guard Avery Bradley, who has missed 11 of the last 12 games due to an Achilles injury, returned to practice Tuesday and is hoping to return soon. “I wouldn’t say it’s at 100 percent,” he told reporters. “I hope it is. This is my first time in a real practice in two weeks. I’m going to come back tonight and go hard work out again and do the same thing tomorrow. We’ll see how I feel.” Center Al Horford, who had 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the first home game against Toronto, returned from a two-game layoff with a groin issue to chip in 13 points, six boards and six assists versus Detroit.
1. Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas had 20 points and 12 rebounds against New Orleans and has grabbed at least 10 boards in 10 of his last 12 contests.
2. Thomas is 28-for-28 from the free-throw line over his last four games and made 94.1 percent of his free throws in January.
3. Toronto is 3-6 in the second half of back-to-backs and has lost its last four.
PREDICTION: Celtics 110, Raptors 102
STATS AND RECORDS