While the Raptors have been rising up the standings to claim third place in the Eastern Conference, the crumbling Boston Celtics have dropped 9 games in a row to sit 1 game out of third last overall in the NBA. Right now the distraction of the impending return of Rajon Rondo may be doing more harm than good?
For the first 18 games of this season it looked like the Raptors were unintentionally tanking for a top draft pick in June, but that all changed after the Rudy Gay trade to Sacramento.
Pre-trade the Raptors were scoring 97.3 points per game and giving up 98.7 points for a -1.4 differential. With sticky hands, they were dead last in the NBA with just 17.3 assists per game. Toronto was full measure for their 6-12 record and heading nowhere fast.
At 13-5 post trade, the Raptors have the best record in the Eastern Conference since December 8th. They have averaged 101.2 points per game on offense and held opponents to a very stingy 94.1 points for a very impressive +7.1 points spread. Toronto has improved their shooting by 2.4 points to 44.8 percent in the post-trade era and clamped down on their opposition, holding teams to just 43.1 percent from the field – compared to the generous 46.3 percent pre-trade. The now pass-happy Raptors are averaging 22.2 assists per game since the move.
Toronto’s post trade record is even more impressive because they accomplished it by beating 3 Western Conference teams on the road, splitting a pair of games with first place Pacers and taking care of business in their own division. The Raptors have earned their record.
A month ago it was Boston atop the Atlantic Division, but an unfriendly stretch in the schedule has turned into a disaster and the usually sound defense of the Celtics gave up 113.6 points per game on their recent 5-game Western conference road swing.
The Celtics are a young team and the young players are playing big minutes and there’s a risk this group has been distracted by the possible return of Rondo – which could come as early as Friday against the Lakers, but even Rondo isn’t going to turn this season around if the Celtics don’t start picking it up at the defensive end.
Boston has been giving up 99.1 points per game on the season while averaging just 95.2 points themselves. On average they get out rebounded, plus they turn the ball over too much. The Celtics problems are self-evident and largely the result of putting player development first this season – even if no one would argue against this approach with this roster and the team’s wealth of draft picks.
Jeff Green leads the Celtics in scoring with 15.8 points per game and Avery Bradley has 14.6 points. Jordan Crawford is averaging a mind-blowing 5.7 assists as he takes on the role of facilitator. The addition of combo guard by play, but point guard by desire Jerryd Bayless should give the Celtics a playmaking boost.
There are plenty of people who believe the Celtics recent slide to the bottom fits in beautifully with the organization’s real goal of landing a top prospect in this year’s draft.
On opening night in Toronto, the Raptors defeated the Celtics 93-87, but this isn’t the same team Boston faced way back then – the Raptors are a lot better now. The Celtics are better than their current 0-9 streak as well, so the Raptors will have to maintain this new level of play if they want to stretch the Celtics misery to 10 games. However, beating teams below them in the standings has not been an issue for the Raptors over the past month.
The words being quietly whispered in Toronto these days are, ‘Don’t blow it now!’