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Celtics and Cavaliers Square off at the Garden

Thursday, February 25, 2010
TV: TNT; Radio: WEEI
Venue: TD Garden

The Cleveland Cavaliers storm into Boston, a game after righting their ship following their recent three-game losing streak, tonight at 8:00pm.

Not that they shouldn't be used to it at this point in the season, but the Celtics will once again be short-handed tonight, as Paul Pierce will miss tonight's game due to a right thumb sprain and a touch of the flu. On top of that, backup forward Marquis Daniels is also questionable for tonight's game, due to a similar bout of the flu. With that in mind, the Celtics are obviously weak at the small forward position tonight, particularly on the defensive end, which poses a serious problem with LeBron James leading the Cavaliers' offense.

Tony Allen should get the start in place of Pierce tonight, if Daniels can't go due to his illness. With so few options to throw at James, Marcus Landry could very well see his first minutes as a Celtic tonight (talk about a first audition).

The recent talk surrounded the Cavaliers has dealt with the new addition of Antawn Jamison, who was acquired in exchange for Zydrunas Ilgauskas last week. The Cavs proceeded to lose their first three games following the trade, allowing 109.6 points per game, which is a far cry from their 95.01 points per game allowed season average. However, in Jamison's first start of the season Tuesday against the Hornets, the Cavs snapped their three-game losing streak with a 105-95 victory.

Jamison undoubtedly adds more talent to Cleveland's roster, and gives them yet another rebounding force to bolster their already respectable 42.08 rebounds per game season average.

It's been difficult for the Celtics to find consistency all season, but a win over the league's second best team without Pierce could go a long way towards steering them back on the right path as the playoffs continue to draw near.

As an aside, ex-Celtic Leon Powe, now a Cavalier, could play his first minutes of the season tonight. He's finally cleared to play after rehabbing an ACL tear he suffered in last year's postseason.

Projected Starters:

Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Tony Allen, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Cavaliers: Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, LeBron James, Antawn Jamison, Shaquille O'Neal

Health Check: For the Celtics, forward Paul Pierce (thumb, flu) is out, while forwards Marquis Daniels (flu) and Marcus Landry (ankle) are listed as questionable.

Keep It In Mind: The Celtics have not seen the Cavaliers since the very first game of the season, in which Boston silenced the Cavs in Cleveland, 95-89.

Who's Hot: For the Celtics, Ray Allen has shot 9-14 from the field (64.3 percent) in each of his last three games, and is averaging 23.3 points per game in those games.

For the Cavaliers, Shaquille O'Neal scored 20 points on 9-13 shooting against the Hornets on Wednesday.

Who's Not: For the Celtics, Nate Robinson shot just 2-7 in his Celtics debut on Tuesday.

For the Cavaliers, Mo Williams scored just six points on 2-9 shooting on Tuesday against the Hornets.

Key Matchup: Tony Allen vs. LeBron James

Honorable Mention: Kevin Garnett vs. Antawn Jamison and Kendrick Perkins vs. Shaquille O'Neal

Skinny: Discipline is the word that comes to mind when thinking about tonight's game. If ever there was a contest that calls for the Celtics to revert back to their defensive principles, this is arguably it. The Celtics' last two opponents both averaged over 100 points per game on the season, and the final score favored their offenses as opposed to the Celtics' defense. Cleveland is yet another team that's averaging over 100 points per game this year, and unlike the Nuggets and the Knicks, do not allow over 100 points per game in return (95.01).

The Celtics absolutely need to limit their turnovers, for they do not need to be spoon-feeding Cleveland extra possessions in a game where something like a 6-0 run on Cleveland's part could spell sheer doom at any point in the game. This could very well be a night where the Celtics need significant production from their bench, and even though it's only Nate Robinson's second game in a Boston uniform, he might need to come up big against Cleveland's second unit.

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