Raptors-Celtics preview: With or without Kyle Lowry, this should be close

A look at the NBA Eastern Conference semifinal between the Raptors and Boston Celtics, tentatively scheduled to start Thursday night:

SEASON SERIES

Boston won, 3-1

THE ROSTERS

Guards

Kyle Lowry of the Raptors is day-to-day with a sprained ankle, but Fred VanVleet and Norm Powell against Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart could be outstanding. The Raptors have more offence, but Smart’s one of the best defenders in the league.

Wings

OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam vs. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum could be where the series is decided. Anunoby’s defensive abilities will be put to the test, and he may be a key to Toronto offence since he’s the guy the Celtics may leave alone to double-team others.

Frontcourt

Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka vs. Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter. Advantage Raptors because of experience and offensive versatility.

NEED TO KNOW

First-ever playoff meeting between the teams: “I would imagine this is going to be a hell of a series and rivalry-like,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse … the Celtics trounced Toronto 122-100 for the lone Raptors loss in eight seeding games … Boston’s Walker has won more playoff games in the last 10 days (four) than he did in eight seasons in Charlotte (three).

PREDICTION

Raptors in seven

With or without Lowry for however many games he may miss, the Raptors are a bit deeper and vastly more experienced.

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE

Game 1: Thursday, 6:30 p.m. (TSN)

Game 2: Saturday, TBD

Game 3: Monday, TBD

Game 4: Wednesday, TBD

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Game 5: Sept. 4, TBD*

Game 6: Sept. 6, TBD*

Game 7: Sept. 8, TBD*

*if necessary

Doug Smith

TORONTO STAR