Raptors look to end skid in Boston
BOSTON -- The Toronto Raptors, saddled with their first two-game losing streak of the season, visit TD Garden Friday night for the second battle of the season between the teams picked to finish atop the Eastern Conference.
The Raptors (12-3) lost both games at home after a 12-1 start - falling 126-110 to the New Orleans Pelicans before losing on a buzzer-beater to the Detroit Pistons and former Toronto coach Dwane Casey Wednesday night.
Casey, of course, was fired by the Raptors after a playoff disaster against the Cleveland Cavaliers despite winning NBA coach of the year honors. He returned to Toronto with the Pistons and his team earned him a measure of revenge when Reggie Bullock hit a floater at the buzzer.
The Celtics, easy winners over the Bulls Wednesday night at the start of a stretch of three home games in four nights, are just 8-6 on the season and hope to even the season series with the Raptors.
Back on Oct. 19, Kawhi Leonard delivered 31 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in Toronto's 113-101 home win over Boston.
VegasINSIDER.com, in its latest odds, has the Celtics at 9-1 odds and the Raptors 10-1 to beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Both are listed at 9-4 to win the East.
Kyrie Irving came through with 17 points, six rebounds and seven assists in Wednesday's win over the Bulls. The Celtics are 4-1 at home, while the Raptors come in 5-1 on the road as they begin a four-game road trip.
"Coming into the season we were all expecting that we would just kind of take over," Boston's Al Horford said after Wednesday's win, "and we're very dangerous. I feel like we've been humbled a little bit. We're in a position now where we have an opportunity to start building that. And we have to do it every night. If we're able to do that, we'll have a chance to be special."
The Raptors reeled off 12 wins in their first 13 games before they, too, were humbled -- blowing a 19-point lead Wednesday.
They had trouble from behind the arc in these two losses -- missing nine of their first 10 3-pointers in both games and finishing 4 of 20 from deep in Wednesday's loss.
Toronto was guilty of eight turnovers and scored just 16 points in the fourth quarter against the Pistons.
"Play better defense, execution on the offensive end, a lot of things could have happened, (that) we be different," Kyle Lowry said after the loss to Casey and the Pistons. "Just was a tough game for us."
Manpower continues to be a problem for the Raptors. Danny Green (lower back tightness) went down during the game Wednesday, while Norman Powell (shoulder) and C.J. Miles (adductor) were already out. Serge Ibaka (right knee soreness) was a late scratch.
Coach Nick Nurse said he expected Ibaka back for Friday night's game.
Marcus Morris missed Wednesday's game for the Celtics because of illness and was questionable for Friday.
The Celtics finish their home back-to-back when they seek revenge against the Utah Jazz Saturday night. Utah defeated Boston in Gordon Hayward's return to Salt Lake City -- part of the Celtics' poor road trip.
Boston won both TD Garden meetings with the Raptors last season, and Toronto won both games up north.