Raptors-Celtics Preview

NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
The Associated Press

The Boston Celtics may feel they're headed in the right direction, but their five-game losing streak would seem to indicate otherwise.

The Toronto Raptors know all about long losing streaks.

The Celtics look to snap their longest skid in nearly five years by continuing their dominance of the visiting Raptors on Wednesday night.

Boston (4-8) is mired its first five-game losing streak since dropping seven in a row April 4-15, 2007, part of a 1-8 run that ended the 2006-07 season. The Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen the following offseason, setting the stage for the 2008 NBA title and four straight Atlantic Division championships.

The Celtics haven't looked anything like champions this season, and are averaging 81.8 points and shooting 40.5 percent during their losing streak. They shot 39.1 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 19 times Monday, falling 97-88 to Oklahoma City to open a three-game homestand.

"None of us likes to lose; that's the frustrating part," said Paul Pierce, who had a team-high 24 points against the Thunder. "I think I like where we are headed, there are just little things that are really killing us."

Pierce may like that the Celtics are headed for an easier patch of schedule, as Boston's next three games come against teams with losing records.

Pierce is averaging 24.4 points in 22 career home meetings against the Raptors (4-10). Boston has defeated Toronto six straight times at home and in 15 of the last 17 meetings overall.

Facing the Raptors could also help Allen out of his individual slump. The veteran guard scored six points Monday - one point less than his previous season low of seven established Saturday in a 97-83 defeat at Indiana.

Allen is averaging 18.0 points on 53.5 percent shooting during the Celtics' six-game home winning streak against the Raptors.

Unlike Boston, Toronto - which has also dropped five straight - is accustomed to extended losing streaks. The Raptors dropped three games or more in a row nine times last season, including a 13-game slide Jan. 12-Feb. 2.

They last lost six straight March 21-April 2, and may be more likely to match that skid if big man Andrea Bargnani - the team leader with 22.3 points per game - is unavailable for a fourth straight contest due to a strained left calf.

Bargnani's success this season could be due to the new up-tempo offense installed by first-year coach Dwane Casey, and his absence was felt in Monday's 93-84 loss at Atlanta.

"I don't want to make excuses, but we're a young team and we have a new coach," said guard Jose Calderon, who had 13 points and 11 assists but also committed four of Toronto's 17 turnovers. "Sometimes we turn the ball over because we're trying to do too much.

"We have to keep fighting. Everybody believes in what we're doing, we just have to do it for 48 minutes. We're competing. We're not losing by 20 or 30 points."

DeMar DeRozan, Toronto's second-leading scorer (14.5 ppg), could use a better effort after making 5 of 17 shots for 10 points Monday. DeRozan has totaled 47 points in the Raptors' last two meetings with Boston.