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Celtics Coach Ime Udoka Calls Scottie Barnes the 'Frontrunner' for Rookie of the Year

The Boston Celtics couldn't figure out how to stop Scottie Barnes and beat Toronto's junk defenses in their last game against the Raptors

There's a confidence about Scottie Barnes that's hard to miss.

It's the thing that makes him so special, Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka said Tuesday. The last time the Celtics saw the Toronto Raptors rookie he was in the process of posting a 25-point, 13-rebound night, the most impressive game of his young career. Sure, the box score stats were nice, but it was the way Barnes carried himself that stuck out to Udoka.

Midway through the third quarter, Barnes found Al Horford in isolation. He scanned the court for a pass, looking to find an open cutter, but when nobody presented themselves, Barnes turned toward the net and swished a 20-foot pull-up, his seventh bucket of the night. This time, though, as he ran back on defense he gestured toward Udoka. On the video, it appears as though Barnes shushed Udoka as if to say, "you can't stop me."

“He's another long active body similar to the body types they like in Toronto, (Pascal) Siakam-type or whoever it may be, (Chris) Boucher or whoever. Guards multiple positions, plays with high energy, aggressiveness intensity," Udoka said. "He made a shot and looked over and said something to me one time. So I love his confidence and he's I think the front runner for rookie of the year as of right now.

"He's a guy that's obviously highly touted coming in and he's met every expectation so far."

But Barnes wasn’t the only problem for the Celtics that night. Boston got killed on the offensive glass, giving up 21 offensive rebounds, and turned the ball over 25 times. It was their worst performance of the season and left a “nasty taste” in their mouths, Robert Williams III said.

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That kind of performance has been the Raptors’ calling card this season. They’ve been the league’s best offensive rebounding team and the second-best turnover producing defense, per Cleaning the Glass.

"They’re one of the more physical, aggressive teams, one of the top offensive rebounding teams, and they really junk it up,” Udoka said. “They'll blitz, they'll switch, they'll rotate from weird areas. So you have to be ready for that.”

The Celtics have gone over the tape and tried to prepare everyone for Toronto’s hyper-aggressive defensive schemes, the kind Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant said can keep players up at night. Even with all that preparation though, the Raptors still find a way to wreak havoc, jumping into passing lanes and poking balls away.

“They're a very well-balanced team,” Udoka said. “It’s going to be a good challenge, a good test for us.”

Further Reading

Pascal Siakam details bouncing back from emotional offseason surgery

Kevin Durant discusses Nick Nurse keeping him up at night & Scottie Barnes' budding potential

Pascal Siakam's return spoiled by Kevin Durant & James Harden