It’s usually unwise to sleep on the defending champions in any sport and Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens is surely not taking the Toronto Raptors lightly after a narrow victory Friday.
Boston defeated Toronto 112-106, capitalizing on its opponents 23 turnovers throughout the contest.
There’s a prevailing notion in league circles that the Raptors won’t be a title contender in 2019-20 after Kawhi Leonard departed for the Los Angeles Clippers in free agency.
Stevens openly dispelled this idea, though, following Friday night’s victory.
“I laughed at the whole idea that Toronto, even though they won [the title], is still under-appreciated and under-ranked because there’s no way any coach would do that. So, it’s coming from somewhere, but it’s not us. We’re scared to death of them,” Stevens told reporters post-game.
They might be scared to death, but they aren’t scared to look after emerging with the victory at TD Garden.
Leonard — and Danny Green — elevated the Raptors to new heights but there’s ample reason to be worried about a veteran-laden team with talent across the board. Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol (who struggled badly, going 0-of-8 from the field Friday) are still aboard, alongside the ascending Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby so there’s plenty to suggest it would be unwise to take this club lightly.
The NBA’s coaching fraternity is usually impervious to the collective groupthink of #NBATwitter, so it certainly seems wise to heed Stevens’ warning, as the Raptors march on confidently in their post-Kawhi chapter.
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