NEWS

Celtics notebook: Raptors to bring European style to Boston

Mike Fine

Ray Allen figures he knows all about the Toronto Raptors.

"They've got guys that can shoot, they got big guys that can shoot," the Celtics guard said. "They remind me a lot of a European team, where their bigs move around a lot on the perimeter. They'll space out our defense but it's important that we keep our defense tight and let them shoot but don't panic, make sure we get rebounds."

Four of the Raptors’ players -- Jorge Gabajosa (injured and out), Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon and Rasho Nesterovic -- are from Europe, and Carlos Delfino is from Argentina. "As soon as I said that, that's what crossed my mind," Allen said.

Those foreign players have done wonders for this team, which last year won the Atlantic Division title. They all can play, Bargnani was the NBA's top draft pick in 2006.

The Toronto Raptors certainly come to Boston on Friday night thinking about their last meeting with the Celtics, a 98-94 overtime loss at Air Canada Centre on Nov. 4. Because of that, the Celts are expecting to see two-time All-Star Chris Bosh in the lineup.

Bosh has missed four straight games with a strained groin, a big blow for a team that scored 123 points against Phoenix, only to lose Wednesday night. The Raptors had also been playing without point guard T.J. Ford for five games and Bargnani for two. The former played against Phoenix. The latter is still out with a knee problem.

"Tough team, tough matchups," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "They play a lot of combinations. They go big with Nesterovic and Bosh. It's a matchup nightmare. Coming off a poor defensive effort of last night, it'll be a great challenge for us.

"We just know they won our division last year. We had helluva game up there in Toronto."

"They're Atlantic Division champs," Paul Pierce said. "This a game they looking at. They feel like they had us in Toronto. T.J. Ford (arm stinger) is coming back. They present a lot of challenges."

"They spread the floor," Eddie House said. "They're a great drive and kick team. They can shoot the 3 real good. Our big thing is to run them off picks as much as possible, don't get beat off the dribble, just play hard defense, team defense."

The series

The Celtics won the first meeting when Ray Allen canned a 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left in overtime, the first of his two game-winners this season.

Allen scored a season-high 33 points in that game, Kevin Garnett adding 23 points and 13 rebounds. Ford scored 32 for the Raptors, also his season high.

The Raptors trailed by 11 points heading into the fourth quarter and tied for the first time with 3:23 left on the heels of a 14-4 run. Ford hit a jumper with 27 seconds left, but Pierce missed what would have been a game-winning jumper, sending it into overtime.

In the spotlight

Glen Davis. The Celtics rookie has been receiving additional playing time of late, but Rivers says it may dependant on the opponents. If the opposing team goes "big," he might sit. While the Raptors do feature big men Nesterovic and Bosh, it's a team that also spends a lot of time going "small."

"There's not a lot of big teams," Rivers said. "In those, Baby fits us better. When teams are big, Scot (Pollard) fits us better. It's going to be by the rotation every game. That won't change."

Also under scrutiny is Tony Allen, who was criticized by Rivers following a weak effort Sunday against Cleveland. But Allen came right back with a stronger game at Philadelphia, earning his coach's praise.

"My coaches, I thought, were going to jump me when I told them I was gonna give Tony extended minutes (in the second half at Philadelphia)," Rivers said, speaking about Allen's rough first half. "He's vital to us. We need him. The only way to keep improving and to get his 'mental' right is by being on floor. In his case, the only way do that is in games. Practice is one thing; games are another. We try to live through that until he either helps us or hurts us."

The Patriot Ledger