Tuesday, October 27, 2009
TV: TNT; Radio: 850 AM WEEI
Venue: Quicken Loans Arena
At long last, the Boston Celtics kick off the 2009-2010 NBA season at the Quicken Loans Arena tonight when they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers at 7:30pm.
The Celtics take the floor for their first game of the regular season after compiling a 6-2 record during the preseason, while the Cavaliers are coming off a preseason that saw them go 4-4, including a 96-82 loss to the Celtics last Wednesday. The Celtics averaged a respectable 97.9 points per game over the eight-game preseason span, but more importantly, held opponents to just 90.1 points per game over that same stretch. With defense being the key for the green this season, hopefully that number resonates from game one against Cleveland tonight.
There appears to be some bad blood brewing between these two Eastern Conference juggernauts, as evidenced by Shelden Williams' shove of Mo Williams at the tail end of the first half last Wednesday. With that in mind, it's safe to expect an extremely hard fought and competitive game tonight, as both teams are looking to send a message to the other and start their respective seasons off on the right foot.
Playing in Cleveland doesn't necessarily bode well for Boston, as over the past two seasons in seven contests, the Celtics have amassed an 0-7 record in the Q, including the playoffs. Hopefully that negative trend can change course tonight.
Boston took something of a hit last night, as news broke that Glen Davis suffered a thumb injury on Sunday and will be out for the at least six weeks. With Brian Scalabrine also unavailable tonight due to a sprained ankle, expect Shelden Williams to see extended minutes with the second unit.
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins
Cavaliers: Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, LeBron James, Anderson Varejao, Shaquille O'Neal
Health Check: For the Celtics, forward Bill Walker (knee), guard Tony Allen (ankle), forward Brian Scalabrine (ankle) and forward Glen Davis (hand) are out.
For the Cavs, forward Leon Powe (knee surgery) is out and guard Delonte West (personal issues) is questionable.
Keep It In Mind: The Celtics have not won a game in Cleveland since December 18, 2004
Who's Hot: For the Celtics, Kevin Garnett averaged 12.6 points per game in the six preseason games he played in.
Who's Not: For the Cavaliers, Jamario Moon scored just two points in 21 minutes against the Celtics last Wednesday.
Key Matchup: Paul Pierce vs. LeBron James
Honorable Mention: Kendrick Perkins vs. Shaquille O'Neal and Kevin Garnett vs. Anderson Varejao
Skinny: Defense will be extremely important for the Celtics tonight in front of Cleveland's home crowd. They need to try and limit Cleveland's explosive plays (the fast breaks, LeBron's dunks and full court blocks from behind) early to try and take the crowd out of the game.
The C's will also need to be on top of their rotations on defense, as LeBron now has a big man in Shaq who is capable of finishing in the paint. When LeBron drives and the help defense comes, that third Celtics defender will need to be alert and rotate over to Shaq quickly to prevent LeBron from feeding him an easy dump off pass.
Three other important keys for the Celtics will be aiming for a wash with the Pierce-James matchup, exploiting Garnett on Varejao and utilizing their superior bench. If the Celtics get steady production from Rasheed Wallace and co., they stand a great chance of walking out of Cleveland with a win.