Tonight, the C's return to The Garden for perhaps the biggest game of the regular season. Probable MVP LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers are set to pay a visit to the men in green for a prime time Eastern Conference showdown. Cleveland currently holds a one-game advantage over Boston for the East's top seed, and this evening's victor may very well decide which of the two powerhouses receive homecourt advantage this postseason.
Both teams come into tonight's game a bit shorthanded. In addition to role players Tony Allen (thumb) and Brian Scalabrine (concussions/neck), defensive anchor and emotional leader Kevin Garnett continues to recoup from the posterior muscle strain he obtained in Utah on February 20. Since the injury, the Celtics have won four of seven games.
Cleveland will also be without a starting big, as Ben Wallace went down with a fractured right fibula in last week's loss in Houston, which will keep him out of the lineup for 4-6 weeks. The Cavs haven't missed a beat since, however, as they've won four straight (three coming on the road) with Anderson Varejao replacing Wallace as the team's starting power forward. As a starter in 21 games this season, Varejao has put up 10 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
Fortunately for Cleveland, they've been able to throw salt on the wound caused by Wallace's injury by adding veteran big Joe Smith this week. Smith was bought out and released by Oklahoma City this past Sunday and elected to go back to Cleveland as soon as he cleared waivers. The fourteenth-year power forward appeared in 27 regular season games for the Cavs last season, where he held averages of 8.1 PPG and 5.0 RPG. Against the Celtics in the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Smith produced 7.6 points and 4.4 rebounds throughout the seven-game series, in which Cleveland came up on the wrong side of.
Leading up to the March 1 deadline for free agents to be playoff eligible, Boston was considered the favorite to land Smith when and if the Thunder decided to part ways. Unfortunately, the Celtics couldn't afford to wait any longer. Sacramento made Mikki Moore available first, and Danny Ainge took what he could get while he could get it.
Smith may or may not be in action tonight, but all signs point to him playing, as he went through Cleveland's scheduled practice yesterday.
There's no Kevin Garnett, but you better believe that emotions will be flaring. Homecourt advantage is extremely important, should these two teams meet in the playoffs, as expected. Get your popcorn ready.
PG SG SF PF C
PPG: LeBron James (28.5)
RPG: Zydrunas Ilgauskas (7.7)
APG: LeBron James (7.0)
SPG: James/West (1.7)
BPG: Ben Wallace (1.4)
PG SG SF PF C
PPG: Paul Pierce (20.3)
RPG: Kevin Garnett (8.8)
APG: Rajon Rondo (8.4)
SPG: Rajon Rondo (1.9)
BPG: Kendrick Perkins (1.7)
|2008 - LeBron James||28.5||7.4||7.0|
|2008 - Paul Pierce||20.3||5.6||3.7|
Ben Wallace (fractured right fibula - out)
Eric Snow (chronic left knee injury - out)
Kevin Garnett (posterior muscle strain - out)
Tony Allen (recovering from thumb surgery - out)
Brian Scalabrine (concussions/strained neck - out)
Keys to Victory
- Ball Control
- Crash the Boards
- Production From the "Other Guys"
- Don't Let This Happen