Celtics' Crowder: 'Toronto is not a team we're worried about'

by
Gregory J. Fisher / USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics made arguably the biggest offseason addition of any Eastern Conference team by signing center Al Horford, and that has Celtics players and prognosticators alike projecting big things.

"My guys were telling me that Bleacher Report says we'll win 59 games," Celtics forward Jae Crowder told MassLive's Tom Westerholm on Thursday.

"That's a lot of wins, but I want to get past the first round of the playoffs. That's my goal to be honest with you."

Crowder now sees the Celtics sitting second in the East's pecking order, and doesn't see last year's No. 2 as much of a threat.

"I think our ceiling is the Eastern Conference finals," he said. "Toronto is not a team we're worried about. I think Cleveland is the top team. That's what it comes down to."

The Raptors may have a thing or two to say about that- they won 56 games a season ago, and return nearly the exact same roster, with backup center Bismack Biyombo the only key rotation piece headed elsewhere (Toronto, incidentally, replaced him by signing former Celtics big man Jared Sullinger).

Toronto beat Boston three of the four times the teams met last season, and their only loss came without All-NBA point guard Kyle Lowry. The Raptors were also the only East team that proved able to take a playoff game off the Cavaliers, pushing the conference finals to six games.

The Celtics certainly improved, but surpassing the Raptors will still take some doing. Ultimately, though, Crowder says the main focus is still on getting to the second round, which Boston has failed to do the past two seasons.

"I know we can win games. I'm just trying to advance, advance, advance," Crowder said. Looking at how the playoffs played out the last two years, I feel like we have a good chance."