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Celtics at Cavaliers Game 1 Game Thread: Celtics face a big challenge

Celtics begin the playoffs on the road as they take on the challenge of playing the Cleveland Cavaliers.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics (0-0) at Cleveland Cavaliers (0-0)
Sunday, April 19, 2015
3:00 PM ET
Playoffs Round 1, Game 1
Quicken Loans Arena

Referees: Mike Callahan, Pat Fraher, Zach Zarba

The Celtics, who were pegged by most to end up in the lottery, begin their playoff experience on the road in Cleveland. Outside of Boston, not many expect the Celtics to put up much of a fight. Jalen Rose picked the Celtics as the most likely to be swept. On the other hand, Mike Gorman picked the Celtics to win the series in 6.

This is the 6th time that these two teams have met in the playoffs. The Cavs are 10-5 all time at home against Boston in the postseason. The Cavs are looking to beat the Celtics in the series for just the second time . The last time these two teams faced each other in the playoffs, the Celtics won and LeBron left the court to boos and not long after, left Cleveland. I'm sure he's looking to redeem himself for that loss in this series.

Both teams are mostly healthy with minor bumps and bruises here and there. Avery Bradley missed the Celtics last regular season game with a quad injury but is good to go in this one. Kelly Olynyk left the Bucks game to get 5 stitches in his head, but is also good to go. Jae Crowder has had a sore ankle but it shouldn't limit him. Jared Sullinger is still getting back to game shape after missing 24 games previously. For the Cavs, Kyrie Irving missed the last 3 games of the season with a sore hip but should be good to go in this one.

All 17 of ESPN's "experts" picked the Cavs to win the series in anywhere from 4 to 6 games. But then again in 2008, all but one of their "experts" picked the Lakers to beat the Celtics. The season series was tied 2-2 but you can't take much from that as the first game included a different roster for both teams, the last two games, the Cavs rested their starters for all or part of the game.

The 2nd game, in which both teams had their current rosters, the Cavs blew out the Celtics 110-79. The Celtics didn't play with much effort in that game, however. The Celtics are loose and confident coming into this game with all the pressure on the Cavs. They have nothing to lose, since they weren't even expected to be in the playoffs. But, they have much to gain in experience for their young players.

Probable Starters

PG: Marcus Smart ....................................... SG: Avery Bradley

C: Tyler Zeller

SF: Evan Turner....................................... PF: Brandon Bass

Celtics Reserves

Gerald Wallace
Jae Crowder
Phil Pressey
Jared Sullinger
Kelly Olynyk
Isaiah Thomas
Jonas Jerebko
Gigi Datome
James Young
Chris Babb


Head Coach

Brad Stevens

Probable Starters

PG: Kyrie Irving.................................... SG: JR Smith

C: Timofey Mozgov

SF: LeBron James............................... PF: Kevin Love

Cavs Reserves

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

Anderson Varejao (Achilles) out

Head Coach
David Blatt

Key Matchups
Marcus Smart vs Kyrie Irving
Irving is one of the top point guards in the league and will be a tough matchup for Marcus Smart. Irving missed the last two games between these two teams. He is averaging 21.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. Smart will need to play tough defense to try to slow him down.
Evan Turner vs LeBron James
LeBron James is a tough cover for anyone and he will definitely be tough for Evan Turner.
James is averaging 25.3 points, 7.4 assists and 6.0 rebounds. Jae Crowder will probably see time guarding James as will Brandon Bass, who has had some success in the past at covering him. They will also need to make James work hard on the defensive end.

Honorable Mention

Brandon Bass vs Kevin Love
Love is also a tough cover as he stretches the floor and can score both inside and outside. He is averaging 16.4 points, 9.7rebounds, and 0.5 blocks. 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.

Interesting Side Story

Boston fan favorite (my favorite, anyway) Kendrick Perkins will be playing against the Celtics in the playoffs for the first time since winning a Championship with the Celtics in 2008. Tyler Zeller is playing against the team that traded him away this season in order to make room for LeBron James.

Keys to the Game
Defense Defense Defense!! Defense wins Championships is not just a cute saying. Playing tough defense is the key to winning every game. The Celtics have been playing good defense recently, but they need to ramp up their defense even more in the playoffs when the intensity increases. The Cavs are 21-0 at home when they score 100+ points. They need to defend the paint as well as the 3 point line because the Cavs are very good at both. It will be very important for the Celtics to play tough defense on the Cavs and concentrate on getting stops.

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.

Run! Run! Run! - 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. When the Celtics walk the ball up and slow the game down they struggle. They have to run and they have to move the ball. No hero ball. The Celtics are young and deep and should be able to run the entire game.

Play with Effort
- The Celtics have been winning 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. Their effort was very poor in the last meeting between these two teams when they were both at full strength and they lost by 31. They can't afford to come out with less than a full effort. 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 to play hard for 48 minutes from the opening tip to the final buzzer. They can't afford to let the Cavs get a big lead because the Cavs are a very good defensive team and it won't be easy to dig out of a hole against them. They also can't let the Cavs back in it if they can manage to get out to a lead themselves.

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. Of course, hopefully they will be hitting their 3's.

Over Confidence, Effort and Officiating

The Cavs may be over confident and take the Celtics lightly, although they have said that they are taking them very seriously. The Celtics win on their effort and their grit and ability to grind games out. If the effort is there, they have a chance.

If you have ever watched the Cavs play, you know that they almost always get the benefit of the officiating. The fact that a ref stood there and watched Kendrick Perkins take 9 steps without calling a travel is proof of that. LeBron gets away with offensive fouls just about every time he drives to the basket. Hopefully they will give the Celtics a fair shake in this game.

Official Report
Mike Callahan

A veteran of 24 NBA seasons, Mike Callahan has officiated 1,428 regular season, 143 Playoff and 15 NBA Finals games. He was a member of the crews that officiated the 2007 NBA All-Star Game, 1994 Mexico Challenge and the 1996 Schick Rookie Game. Prior to joining the NBA, Callahan spent three years officiating in the CBA, including the 1989 and 1990 CBA Finals. A member of the Cardinal O’Hara High School basketball team for four years, Callahan also coached the freshman basketball team after graduating.

Callahan is one of 4 refs to come out of Cardinal O'Hara High School in Pennsylvania. The other 3 are Joey Crawford, Ed Malloy and Tim Donaghy. Callahan was one of the referees mentioned in an incident in Tim Donaghy's book. He and other refs would regularly wager with their fellow refs over things like who would call the first foul, who could give out the first tech, etc. Makes you wonder what game they might be playing tonight.

As with most refs, Callahan can be good or he can be very, very bad. He usually lets the teams play and isn't a tyrant with the whistle but still makes some head scratching calls from time to time. He hasn't been too bad in the Celtics 4 games with him this season. The Celtics are 3-1 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Callahan making the calls. The Cavaliers are 3-3 this season and are 5-5 in their last 10 with Callahan. His home W/L record this season is 32-23.

Pat Fraher
Pat Fraher has officiated 793 regular season NBA games and 16 Playoff games entering his 14th season in the NBA. Prior to joining the NBA, Fraher officiated for seven years in the CBA, where he worked the CBA Finals and All-Star game. In addition, Fraher spent four years with the WNBA, where he officiated playoff games in both the WNBA Eastern and Western Conference Finals. Fraher also has two years of collegiate officiating experience with the NSIC and 10 years of experience as a high school official in his home state of Minnesota.

The Celtics are 0-2 this season and 5-5 over their last 10 games with Fraher. He hasn't been particularly bad in the past. The Cavaliers are 3-2 this season and 5-5 over their last 10 games officiated by Fraher. He is a homer ref with a home W/L record this season of 42-21.

Zach Zarba
Zach Zarba has officiated 697 regular season NBA games, 27 playoff games and one Finals game during his 11 year career. Prior to joining the NBA, Zarba officiated in the NBA Development League for two years, where he was part of the crew that officiated the 2003 D-League Finals. He also spent one year officiating in the CBA and two years officiating in the IBL. Zarba has three years of collegiate officiating experience in the ACC, SEC, Colonial, ASUN, OVC and NEC Conferences. In addition, he has three years of high school officiating experience in New York. In a win over Cleveland last season, Zarba made 3 terrible calls down the stretch which prompted Tommy to say "Zach Zarba, every time we have this guy he makes things up." In his 3 games with the Celtics this season he hasn't been particularly bad. The Celtics are 1-3 this season and 3-7 in their last 10 with Zarba and the Cavaliers are 2-2 this season and 4-6 in their last 10. He is a homer ref with a home W/L record this season of 41-26.

Alternate: James Williams

Just a Note: In last night's Maverick's vs Rockets game, the Rockets took 45 free throws to 17 for the Mavs. James Harden alone took 17 free throws. They had Joey Crawford :)

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