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Celtics visit Perk and the Cavs (how weird is that??)

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Celtics continue tough March schedule with a visit to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports


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Boston Celtics (23-34) at Cleveland Cavaliers (37-24)
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
7:00 PM ET
Game #57, Road Game #27
TV: CSNNE, FSO, NBA-LP 754(DTV)/751(Xfinity)
Radio:98.5 Sports Hub, WTAM
Quicken Loans Arena

Referees: Derrick Stafford, Brent Barnaky, Eric Dalen


The Celtics pay a visit to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 2nd of 4 meetings this season. The Cavs won the first meeting 122-121 in Boston on November 14. The Cavs overcame a 19 point fourth quarter lead with a 38-18 fourth quarter run to get the one point win. LeBron James scored 41 points and Kyrie Irving added 27 points in that win. Kelly Olynyk led the Celtics with 21 points. Jared Sullinger had 19 points and 10 rebounds.

The Cavs have been dominant at home, winning their last 11 home games by an average of 14.8 points per game. Over their last 20 games they have held opponents to 41.4% shooting. The Cavs have lost their last two games, both of which were on the road and they were without their starting point guard in both games. Irving is expected to return to the starting lineup for this game.

The Cavs are playing for playoff positioning. Cleveland is 1/2 game behind Chicago for the third seed and 1 game behind Toronto for the second seed. The Celtics are fighting to make the 8th seed of the playoffs and on Saturday were in a 3 way tie for that spot. With their loss to the Warriors on Sunday and Brooklyn's win over the same Warriors, the Celtics have fallen 1.5 games behind the Nets for the 8th seed. Given that the Cavs are fighting for position and lost 2 straight games, expect them to come out strong in this one.

Kyrie Irving has missed the last 2 games for the Cavs with a shoulder injury. The Cavs are 0-4 without him this season. Unfortunately, he is expected to return for this game. The Celtics may get Kelly Olynyk back from his ankle injury for this game. He is day to day. Former Celtic Kendrick Perkins has joined the Cavs. I still love Perk, but it sure is hard to cheer for him when he's on the same team as LeBron James.


Probable Starters

Marcus Smart...Avery Bradley... Evan Turner... Brandon Bass...Tyler Zeller


Celtics Reserves

Gerald Wallace
Jae Crowder
James Young
Phil Pressey
Shavlik Randolph
Isaiah Thomas
Jonas Jerebko
Gigi Datome

Injuries
Kelly Olynyk (ankle) day to day
Jared Sullinger (foot) out

Head Coach
Brad Stevens



Probable Starters

Kyrie Irving... JR Smith...LeBron James... Kevin Love... Timofey Mozgov

Cavs Reserves
Mike Miller
Tristan Thompson
Joe Harris
Matthew Dellavedova
Iman Shumpert
James Jones
Brendan Haywood
Kendrick Perkins

Injuries

Anderson Varejao (Achilles) out
Shawn Marion (hip) out
Kyrie Irving (shoulder) probable

Head Coach
David Blatt

Key Matchups
vs
Marcus Smart vs Kyrie Irving
Irving has missed 2 games with a shoulder injury but is expected to be back for this one. He scored 27 points in the last meeting between these two teams and always seems to have big games against the Celtics. He is averaging 21.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. Smart will need to play tough defense to try to slow him down.

vs
Evan Turner vs LeBron James
LeBron James is a tough cover for anyone and he will definitely be tough for Evan Turner. Jae Crowder may be more effective defending LeBron if Evan struggles. James may be particularly hard to cover in this game as he choked in the Cavs' last game, missing 2 free throws with 4.2 seconds left in the game and the Cavs down 1. He may feel like he has something to prove in this one.

Honorable Mention

Brandon Bass vs Kevin Love
Love is also a tough cover. He is averaging 17.0 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. He is a very good 3 point shooter and can also take the ball into the paint. Bass will have his hands full trying to keep up with him.

Keys to the Game
Defense Defense Defense!!
Defense is key to winning every game. The Celtics' defense has been much improved of late, but they still need to increase their efforts on that end. The Cavs are 18-0 when they score 100+ points so it will be very important for the Celtics to play tough defense and keep the Cavs below 100 points.

Rebound - The Celtics can't score if they don't have the ball. They must crash the boards as a team to prevent the Cavs from getting second chance and fast break points. They also need to rebound to give themselves extra possessions and to fuel their running game.

Push the Pace
- The Celtics need to push the pace of the game and keep the Cavs running. If they do, they will have a chance to get some easy points before the Cavs defense sets up.

Effort - The Celtics have won their games by putting out more effort than their opponents. They don't have the talent that the Cavs do, so they have to make up for it with effort and aggressiveness. They have to be the first team to loose balls and rebounds, and they have to be the team that works harder if they want to have a chance to win this game.

Play 48 Minutes
The Celtics have built a big lead over the Cavs in their last game, just as they built a big lead over the Warriors but the let up and allowed both teams to come back and get the win. The Celtics have to play hard from the opening tip until the final buzzer.

Go to the Hoop - The Celtics need to go to the hoop and get into the paint. 3-pointers are nice and all but when they aren't falling, they can take a team right out of a game. The Celtics need to drive more and not rely as much on shooting from beyond the arc, especially when they aren't falling.

X-Factors
Road Game and Effort

Sometimes focus is a problem for young teams when they are on the road. They have to focus and try to overcome the distractions that can slow down young players. Effort is very important if the Celtics want to win this game as the Cavs have more talent and so the Celtics have to put out more effort.