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Game #56 - Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Boston Celtics
Record: 43-12
Last Ten Games: 7-3
Points scored per game: 100.4
Points allowed per game: 90.5    
Pace Factor: 91.1 (16th of 30)
Offensive Rating: 109.8 (10th of 30)
Defensive Rating: 99.0 (1st of 30)

Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 32-25
Last Ten Games: 5-5
Points scored per game: 97.4
Points allowed per game: 98.2
Pace Factor: 91.0 (18th of 30)
Offensive Rating: 105.6 (17th of 30)
Defensive Rating: 106.6 (15th of 30)

Hat tip to basketball-reference.com for info on the Celtics and the Cavs.

Rajon Rondo vs. Delonte West
Ray Allen vs. Devin Brown
Paul Pierce vs. LeBron James
Kevin Garnett vs. Anderson Varejao
Kendrick Perkins vs. Ben Wallace

Schedule Notes

The Celtics had yesterday off after playing 5 games in 7 days out West. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers are in the second of a back-to-back road swing. Prior to that Cleveland was at home for a couple. I'll give Boston the edge here and hope that they are not sluggish from the road trip.

Injuries

Kevin Garnett is still getting back into game shape. Scot Pollard is cleared to play but does not look capable. Kendrick Perkins is playing, although his status is a bit of a mystery to me. And Brian Scalabrine did not play at all during the post All Star break road trip. He could be back tonight but there has been no word. Meanwhile, the Cavs just got Anderson Varejao back only to see Zydrunas Ilgauskas miss his first game. And as Kelly Dwyer noted earlier today, a lack of Z means more Ben Wallace, which is good for the Cleveland's opponents.

I Can Still Spell Szczerbiak
In my third post as a blogger I wrote the following about Wally Szczerbiak:

"I would feel a lot better if Wally were as good as he thinks he is. Also it takes a year to come back from knee surgery. So the jury is still out. On a personal note Wally seems destined to be the kind of guy who says all the right things and yet I inexplicably don't like him. I am convinced he could have been the most hated college intramural basketball player of all time. Alas, he was good enough to make it.


You can ignore that intramural line, although I really like it. Let's focus on the fact that Szczerbiak has never lacked self-confidence. That might explain why he took 18 shots in 38 minutes of time last night, second only to LeBron on the Cavs. Unfortunately he only hit 5 of them. On the plus side he is coming off the bench for the Cavaliers, which is what I wanted him to do in Boston. Alas the Celtics just were not good enough to make that happen. Regardless Szczerbiak could carry the scoring load for the second team and then stay in and hit big shots down the stretch. But can he stay healthy? Based upon his time in Boston I'm not sold.

DELONTE!

I went back and forth on Delonte as a point guard. Ultimately he's a player and the Cavs have to like his 7 points, 8 boards 7 assists from last night. Still I like West much better as a bench player and I'm not convinced that Daniel Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic, who are both currently injured, are significantly better than him. Yes Gibson can shoot, which is a huge plus playing with LeBron. But what else does Gibson do?

Excuse Me, Who are You?

While perusing the boxscore from the Cavs' last game I was struck by the fact that I had no idea who K. Dickens and B. Thomas are. Well Kaniel (you read that right) and Billy are both D League alums. They have two years of pro experience according to NBA.com. Unfortunately Dickens will be 30 in July and Thomas is already 33. I will probably never talk about them again.

Are the Cavs Better?

First of all is Drew Gooden bad? I liked him at Kansas and watched in horror as he dropped 24 points on the Celtics back in November. However, Bill Simmons has been all over the "LeBron hates Gooden" angle for quite some time. The most recent example came in Simmons' reaction to the 11 player deal that shook up the Cavs' roster:

"First, Drew Gooden needed to go -- he was too inconsistent and too much of a bonehead, and we neared the point when a fed-up LeBron might punch him in the face during a game about three months ago." - Bill Simmons


And I can't find it (trust me I tried) but I read somewhere, via TrueHoop that Joe Smith already has a better understanding of the offense than Gooden did. That is not good. Speaking of Smith, he is inexplicably having a career year, which is downright odd considering the fact that he entered the league as the #1 pick back in 1996. Yet his consistency could be the key to the deal. Because, really how much does Ben Wallace have left? Actually the key to the deal is the fact that LeBron James is happy. I fall into the "the Larry Hughes signing was bad because it did not work out, but at the time it seemed like a good idea" camp. And as stated above, LeBron was not a fan of Gooden. Still I always worry about NBA stars getting involved in personnel. The history of the league is littered with superstars making awful talent judgments.

Ben Wallace Meet Jason Kidd

I can't get over the way Wallace handled himself in Chicago. I understand he had to take the money. And if he's declining as a player due to age, minutes played over the course of his career and size, I understand. But if he is rejuvenated in Cleveland I'll be skeptical of his effort over the last season and a half. Unfortunately it will be difficult to tell how much of it is effort and how much of it is the "LeBron effect". Regardless, Wallace joins Jason Kidd in the "disingenuous club".

Season Series

The Cavs won the first game in Clevaland. Tough loss for the Celtics as Rajon Rondo threw up some bricks, Ray Allen missed key foul shots at the end of regulation and the Celtics' offense disappeared in overtime. The Celtics won the rematch against a LeBronless Cavs team on a Sunday afternoon. It was the type of game that brings NBA critics out of the woodwork. In fact it was somewhat similar to Boston's most recent win over the Clippers. But I digress. LeBron returned and dominated in the third match up, leading the Cavs to a 1 point victory over the C's, sans KG. So this is a big game...kind of. I'd like to see the season series tied at 2-2, with a victory while LeBron played. And there is an excellent chance that these teams, looking very different from today, could meet again in the playoffs. For example, the Celtics could add a player or two. And the Cavs could get healthy, learn to play with each other and figure out ideal lineups.

My Prediction

This is going to be a fun game. Enjoy.