Raptors face Goliath challenge

Jose Calderon of the Toronto Raptors shows off his injured eye against the Philadelphia 76ers...

Jose Calderon of the Toronto Raptors shows off his injured eye against the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night at the ACC. Calderon is doubtful for Friday's home game against the Boston Celtics. (DAVE ABEL/QMI AGENCY)

Ryan Wolstat, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:49 PM ET

His backup point guard is out for the season, the same could be true of his leading scorer, his floor general looks like he’s gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson and others are hurting.

Yet, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey is staying positive as the end of his first season in Toronto mercifully approaches.

Casey’s Raptors will be either depleted or ridiculously depleted on Friday night against the once again mighty Boston Celtics.

Casey said Amir Johnson’s back is feeling better and he should suit up, but the coach also said he had not even seen the results of Bargnani’s calf evaluations — so don’t expect to see him anytime soon — and inferred that Linas Kleiza (knee) and Jose Calderon (eye) were highly questionable to play.

Calderon said he has headaches after being head butted against Philadelphia above the same eye that had already been stitched up from a prior incident — seven stitches in a week, Calderon tweeted.

“Hopefully tomorrow it will be better ... It (playing against Boston) looks like it’s possible, but we’ll see,” he said.

If he can’t go, the Raptors will be in trouble. Boston has been on a tear since pairing Rajon Rondo with Avery Bradley in the starting lineup and if Ben Uzoh, Justin Dentmon and Gary Forbes have to do the ball-handling, this one could get extremely ugly quickly.

Despite a far tougher second-half schedule, Boston has gone from .500 or so to the class of the Atlantic Division once more. The team might be 28th in offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) but ranking second overall in defensive rating has more than made up for that.

According to ESPN’s John Hollinger, Boston’s defence has been historically good over the past 15 games, with Bradley — who he named to his all-defensive first team — being a key.

Bradley, a top three high school recruit coming out of Findlay Prep — where he was a teammate of Canadian’s Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph — underwhelmed a bit at Texas before sitting on Boston’s bench until Doc Rivers gave him a chance.

Not surprisingly, considering how much Casey loves defenders, Bradley has caught his attention.

“You have two defensive stoppers. I mean they’re two defensive demons,” Casey said of the Celtics backcourt.

“You have speed ... on the ball defence, it also allows Rondo to roam more, to take chances, to zone up and he’s one of the best in the league at doing that.”

Casey said once Calderon was lost against Philadelphia, “all hell broke loose.” That could be nothing compared to what might go down on Friday.

Knowing his team likely will struggle to get the ball up the court, Casey said he plans to make slight adjustments to how the team initiates its offence.

“When you lose your quarterback, your computer, which Jose is for us, we become a little discombobulated, which we did. You lose your edge.

“We’re going to have to have different guys bring the ball up the floor. We’re going to try our best to (withstand Boston’s defensive pressure),” Casey said.

The coach is fully aware this group is overmatched talent-wise, but he wants to see pride, effort and a high compete level.

Casey said he was happy with the extra work Ed Davis has been putting in of late and also added that he expects to continue bringing James Johnson off of the bench behind Alan Anderson.

DRAFT GETS A BOOST

The Raptors don’t yet know where they will draft this June, but they do know the draft class keeps getting meatier.

Connecticut centre Andre Drummond was the latest big-name to leave school and declare, when he did so on Thursday.

Drummond has a long way to go offensively, but the 18-year-old is 6-foot-11, 265 pounds and has tremendous athleticism. At worst, he is seen as a top defender, at best, in time, a premier all-around big man.

His teammate, shooting guard Jeremy Lamb also recently left UCONN — the school is barred from 2013 tournament appearances due to violations, making the decision to bolt a no-brainer — Kentucky and North Carolina have sent a cavalcade of talented youngsters into the pool, Kansas’ Thomas Robinson is in as well as are Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Baylor’s Perry Jones III, among others.

The top prospect still on the fence remains Florida guard Bradley Beal, who is expected to make a decision soon.

 

 

CELTICS AT RAPTORS

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MARQUEE MATCHUP

Avery Bradley vs. DeMar DeRozan

Bradley’s been great for the Celtics since replacing Ray Allen in the starting lineup. He is a superb defender who will give DeRozan all kinds of trouble and he can hit open shots.

DeRozan has a considerable size advantage over Bradley and needs to use it. If he puts the ball on the deck, he’s in trouble.

SCOUTING REPORT

Celtics have been on a tear since Bradley infused the starters with another defensive stopper. Boston has won four straight and nine of past 11 to reclaim their customary place at the top of the Atlantic Division. Rajon Rondo is coming off of his sixth triple-double of the season, a 20 assist gem vs. Atlanta. Paul Pierce was Eastern Conference player of the month for March and Kevin Garnett is cooking too.

DID YOU KNOW?

Only Magic Johnson has recorded as many triple-doubles with at least 20 assists as Rondo’s four ... The Raptors have a chance to even the season series – unthinkable after the Celtics beat them by an average of 31 points in the first two meetings — with a win ... Celtics sport a 42-22 record against the Raptors all-time.

— ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca

 


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