The Toronto Raptors will take a banged-up roster with a shortened rotation to Boston when they take on the Celtics in a Saturday matinee game.
Already without Landry Fields, Alan Anderson and Kyle Lowry, the team will wait to see how Linas Kleiza is feeling after being limited in practice on Friday afternoon because of an ankle he tweaked during Toronto’s victory in Indiana on Tuesday night.
With a tight bench and only one true point guard in Jose Calderon, Dwane Casey said that his other perimeter players will have to help with ball-handling responsibilities against the Celtics.
“Dom (McGuire), DeMar (DeRozan), Terrence Ross, those guys can get us into what we want to get into safely and that’s what we’ve been working on the past couple of days,” Casey said. “Making sure we can initiate our offence more than anything else because we’re down a point guard.”
As well, the team will try to push the ball to get easy buckets in transition, but Casey pointed out the double-edged sword of playing at a fast pace when you’re down bodies because of injuries. Conserving minutes and getting Calderon adequate rest will be a priority for the team. As a result, expect to see more of Ross, who had his strongest outing of the season against the Pacers. Casey also pointed out that little-used rookie Quincy Acy had a strong showing in practice, so the team might throw him out there against the Celtics as well.
It’ll be Jonas Valanciunas’ first experience playing against the beautiful maniac that is Kevin Garnett and Casey knows how overwhelming he can be on the court. Still, he expects his rookie to compete and not back down from the 18-year vet and future Hall of Famer.
One thing to look for while Lowry, Anderson and Fields are out is for the team to go small and have DeRozan and John Lucas or Ross on the floor together.
“We’d like to have match-ups where we can do that,” Casey said of going small in the backcourt. “Get [John] and Jose out there together, move DeMar to the three if the match up fits us…We wanted to work on it more where Dom was more of a point guard, but he had a family situation so he’s not here. Hopefully next week we’ll get to that where our three man is handling the ball more when John is out there without another point guard.”
Casey wasn’t entertaining any questions about how things change if Rajon Rondo is unable to go against the Raptors after tweaking his ankle in Boston the other night.
“They’re still a very potent team,” Casey said. “Anytime you have hall of fame players like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and I know Jason Terry is very experienced, he’s got a championship under his belt. Those guys will help those young players learn and they know how to win. The young players will watch them and they have been winners before and they’ll say, ‘Hey, this is what you have to do to be a winner.’”
On how the Celtics team is different this season, Casey pointed to their speed in the backcourt and singled out the additions of Leandro Barbosa, Courtney Lee and Jason Terry, a player he coached in Dallas. The main keys to the game for the Raptors, in Casey’s eyes? “We’ve got to get back, control the ball in transition and now contain their half-court game.”