Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario
TORONTO – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – The Boston Celtics chose to stand pat at the NBA trade deadline while the Toronto Raptors continued to tweak their roster in advance of the two teams meeting Friday night in Canada. The Celtics emerge from the All-Star break three games behind first-place Cleveland in the Eastern Conference after a 24-8 surge and they hope to continue to ride the momentum with the current roster.
“I don’t think that, when you’re in a position where you’re playing at a pretty good level, you should anticipate much change,” coach Brad Stevens told ESPN as the deadline approached Thursday afternoon. The Raptors felt otherwise amid a recent 4-11 swoon and bolstered their ranks with the acquisitions of veteran forwards Serge Ibaka, who came from Orlando prior to the All-Star break, and P.J. Tucker, acquired from Phoenix in exchange for center Jared Sullinger and draft picks on Thursday. “He’s an excellent defender,’’ coach Dwayne Casey said of Ibaka at practice Wednesday. “I remember the days of going at him from down in Dallas (where Casey served as an assistant). The game has changed from a shot blocking perspective, but it’s still there. He can still protect the rim.” The Celtics had won four in a row before a one-point loss at Chicago prior to the break, while Toronto snapped a three-game slide with a 90-85 victory over Charlotte, although Ibaka did not suit up for that one.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, CSN New England (Boston), Sportsnet ONE (Toronto)
ABOUT THE CELTICS (37-20): Boston was linked in rumors to several big names – notably Indiana’s Paul George and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler – but chose to hold onto several of the draft picks they’ve stockpiled in recent years. “It’s pretty well-known it’s a good draft (this year),” general manager Danny Ainge told reporters. “We have very good fortune right now. … We need to make the most of that.” All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas carries a franchise-record streak of 41 straight games with at least 20 points, while fellow guard Avery Bradley (Achilles) – who has missed 20 of the last 21 games – remains uncertain after reportedly going through a small portion of Thursday’s practice.
ABOUT THE RAPTORS (33-24): While the front office was busy Thursday, guards DeMar DeRozan (personal matter) and Kyle Lowry (travel issues) were absent from practice, depriving the team of another chance to get their All-Stars in sync with Ibaka. Lowry had 32 points in a 109-104 loss at Boston earlier this month while DeRozan was out with a sore ankle, but the latter went for a season-high 41 points and a career-high 13 rebounds in the previous meeting, a 114-106 win for the Raptors at home Jan. 10. DeRozan averaged 29 points in his first three games since returning from the ankle injury but then went 5-for-19 from the floor in back-to-back outings prior to the break.
1. Lowry hit at least four 3-pointers in five consecutive contests.
2. Celtics C Kelly Olynyk is averaging 16 points – more than six over his season average – while shooting 11-for-20 from 3-point range in his last five games.
3. Ibaka was held to a four points – tied for a season low – against the Celtics last month while still with Orlando.