GAME PREVIEW (via STATS LLC)
As the Boston Celtics continue shipping key players out during their rebuilding effort, the Toronto Raptors patiently are awaiting the return of one of their stars as they fight through their toughest stretch of the season.
The Celtics bring their further-depleted roster to Toronto on Saturday night looking to deal the Raptors a fifth consecutive defeat.
Boston (12-22) is attempting to stockpile draft picks and shed salary with an eye on the future, with the biggest move coming Dec. 18 when it traded Rajon Rondo -- its last holdover from the 2007-08 championship team -- to Dallas for a package that included forwards Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright.
The Celtics were dealing again Friday, sending Wright to Phoenix for a protected first-round pick before reportedly agreeing to send leading scorer Jeff Green to Memphis.
Green was pulled from the starting lineup minutes before tipoff of Friday's 107-103 overtime loss to Indiana. Boston reportedly will acquire the expiring $7.7 million contract of Tayshaun Prince and a future first-round pick.
Avery Bradley scored 23 points and hit a 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left to force OT, but Boston fell for the eighth time in 10 games.
"It's part of the business. We are all professionals and we knew we needed to stay focused on the game," Bradley said. "Our focus was on Indiana and now it's on Toronto. We are a family. We hope for the best for one another. But we're still focused on getting the W."
Toronto (24-11) went through its own rebuilding process to build a team that currently leads the Atlantic Division with its sights set on a deep playoff run. However, second-leading scorer DeMar DeRozan has missed the last 19 games with a groin injury and his recovery is taking longer than expected.
DeRozan has been cleared by doctors to play and was slated to return Thursday against Charlotte, but he decided to keep himself out of the lineup and said he would like more time for conditioning.
The Raptors fell 103-95 for their fourth straight defeat, and coach Dwane Casey on Friday was coy about DeRozan's return.
"There's no date set. How we're playing is not going to dictate how fast he comes back," Casey said. "His body will tell him when he comes back."
THREE THINGS TO WATCH (via Chris Forsberg)
• Biggest game in town! Any other big games going on in Boston sports today? The Celtics probably won't have a lot of eyes on their game at tip-off given that there's playoff football in New England, but the team probably won't mind flying under the radar while being shorthanded after Friday's wheeling and dealing. Boston has a tough turnaround after losing in overtime in Indy on Friday night. And they catch a Toronto team eager to snap out of a four-game funk.
• Who steps up? As the Celtics wait to finalize a deal that will send Jeff Green to Memphis, they are playing without their leading scorer and a player that led the team in minutes played. There's an opportunity here, not only for the likes of Jae Crowder, who elevated to a starting role on Friday, but for all the young players to assert themselves as go-to options on a young team. Avery Bradley stepped up Friday, leading the team in scoring and hitting a clutch 3-pointer late in regulation to force overtime.
• Smart vs. Lowry: The Marcus Smart-Kyle Lowry matchup has been fun to watch, even in the infancy of Smart's career. The two physical guards went hard at each other starting in the preseason. This is a good test to assess Smart's development to this point. Lowry scored 35 when the Raptors won in Boston in November.