Following their 17-point blowout of the Sixers in Wednesday’s season opener, it’s clear the Celtics are an improved team.
But are they good enough to scare even the best of their conference rivals? Apparently.
“(We play them) too many times,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said Friday afternoon, via MassLive.com’s Jay King. “I wish they weren’t in our division, because last year you could just see, each time we played them you knew how much they’ve improved.”
The Celtics won two highly competitive games over Toronto last spring — 117-116 on April 5 and 95-93 on April 14. Both matchups went down to the final second, with buzzer-beaters by Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder lifting Boston to victory.
Neither contest was one-sided, but the C’s were definitely more prepared for them than they had been earlier in the schedule.
“They’ve grown,” Casey said. “You’ve watched this team mature, get better, improve, have confidence. They added Amir Johnson who gives them a veteran presence. David Lee gives them a veteran presence in the paint. The know-how to win in the league, they’d added that. So they’ve had some great additions to their team that’s going to help them in so many ways.”
The Celtics — projected by FiveThirtyEight.com to go 48-34 this year — host the Raptors at TD Garden Friday night, hoping to take the first step toward their first division title since 2012. It will be the only meeting between the two franchises until January 20, when the Celts pay a visit to the Air Canada Centre.
Oddsmakers currently favor the Celtics by two points, a spread Casey seems to more than understand.
“(The Celtics) can be very good,” he said. “Very dangerous. Isaiah Thomas is a professional scorer. He’s one of the best scorers in our league right now. Avery Bradley, I’ve always had a crush on him. The kid from Seattle. But he’s a big-time scorer. Evan Turner gives them a multiple-position ball-handler. So they’ve got all the pieces that you need. And their bigs can shoot it. You go (to) every position, they’ve got what it takes to win in this league.”
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