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Game #45 Preview: Celtics @ Cavaliers

Boston Celtics
Record: 36-8
Points scored per game: 99.3
Points allowed per game: 88.2
Pace Factor: 92.6 (24 of 30).
Offensive Rating: 109.4 (10th of 30).
Defensive Rating: 97.3 (1st of 30).

Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 26-20
Points scored per game: 97.0
Points allowed per game: 97.6
Pace Factor: 93.4 (17th of 30)
Offensive Rating: 104.8 (18th of 30).
Defensive Rating: 105.5 (10th of 30).

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

Starters

Rajon Rondo vs. Ira Newble
Ray Allen vs. Larry Hughes
Paul Pierce vs. LeBron James
Brian Scalabrine? vs. Drew Gooden
Kendrick Perkins vs. Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Wait he starts?!

Ever since Sasha "You've been playing in the US for a while now and you're still not going by Aleksandar?!" Pavlovic went down with an injury Ira Newble has been a starter. No really, four games and counting. This was funny to me until I realized two things:

  1. Daniel Gibson gets double the minutes.
  2. Boston currently has a similar situation in its starting lineup...
Brian Scalabrine - I like to think that I keep tabs on the mood of the Celtics' fan base. However, I deserve absolutely no credit for recognizing that the fans don't want to see Scal start. I'm actually glad this one is on the road so we can avoid the possibility of a Celtics starter getting booed...at home. And in his defense Scal is a veteran, he plays good defense, can knock down the 3 blah, blah, blah.

Key Match Up

It's all about Pierce vs. LeBron. I should preface this by reminding everyone that Pierce can't stop LeBron. No one can. However, the two have quietly developed one of the more underrated rivalries in the entire NBA. Shame on me for forgetting about Pierce spitting at the Cavs bench and later exchanging words with LeBron in the hallway. Meanwhile, thank you Brian Windhorst for the reminder. And yes if The Truth were a trash can he would have gotten his ass kicked:

Thanks to TrueHoop for the link to Windhorst.

Last Time They Met

I don't count that Anderson Varejaoless and more importantly LeBronless Sunday matinee from early December. I have to go back to that late November game where the Celtics lost in OT. That was Boston's second loss and it raised some concerns:

  1. The Celtics' offensive execution down the stretch was worrisome.
  2. Rajon Rondo had his first poor shooting night of the season. He threw up some bricks.  
  3. LeBron, LeBron, LeBron.
Question of the Day

Is a loss a loss? Ever notice how "a win is a win" has made its way into the sports cliché hall of fame? For example when the Celtics defended home court against the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier in the season, minus LeBron James, everyone agreed that a win is a win. The same was said after the Celtics barely edged the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves. But if the Celtics fall to the Cavs on Tuesday night, with Kevin Garnett out of the lineup, a lot of Celtics fans will point to the Big Ticket's absence. Unless of course a loss is a loss...

Redemption is Spelled...

R-O-N-D-O. Even with Boston's hot start Rondo's shooting woes in the loss at Cleveland gained some national attention. It drove me crazy. When healthy Rondo brings something to the table every night. I expect a big effort from him Tuesday night.

Last Ten Games

Boston - 6-4
Cleveland - 8-2

Bonus points to the Cavs because they went 11-3 in the month of January. That helps make up for that 5-9 December.

If the Season Ended Today

The Celtics would be the top seed in the East. The Cavs would be the 4th seed in the East and out of the playoffs in the West.

Parting Shot

Go Celtics!