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Celtics face big test as they visit the Cleveland Cavaliers

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Celtics look to win their third straight game as they visit the first place Cavaliers.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics (29-22) at Cleveland Cavaliers (35-13)
Friday, February 5, 2016
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #52, Road Game #27
TV: CSNNE, FSOH, Sportsnet One, NBA-LP 758(DTV)/755(xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 1100 WTAM
Quicken Loans Arena
Referees: Bill Spooner, Steve Anderson, James Williams

After just one game at home, the Celtics head out on the road once again to face the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs have been playing very well at home with a 19-3 record. The Celtics are 14-12 on the road. The Cavs are beginning a 4 game homestand with this game that will take them up to the All Star break.

The Cavaliers are coming off a 106-97 loss in Charlotte and so they will be especially motivated in this game to avoid a 2 game losing streak. The Celtics have won two straight and will be looking for a 3 game win streak. The Cavs have won their last 5 games against the Celtics including a 4 game sweep in the playoffs last season and an 89-77 win over the Celtics in Boston in December of this season. They will meet one more time in Cleveland on March 5.

The Celtics remain in the 4th spot in the East, 7.5 games behind the Cavaliers who are in first place. The Celtics are tied with the Hawks, who are in third place by virtue of owning the tie breaker. The Celtics are also 1/2 game ahead of both Chicago and Miami who are in the 5th and 6th spots. Atlanta is at home vs the Pacers, Miami is at Charlotte and Chicago is at Denver so the standings could get a shake up before the night is over.

Jae Crowder injured his ankle when Marcus Morris fell on it during Wednesday's game vs the Pistons. He finished the game and although limping slightly after the game said he expected to play in this game. He is listed as a game time decision. Jordan Mickey remains out with a sprained ankle. For the Cavs, Matthew Dellevadova missed Wednesday's game with a hamstring injury and is listed as out for tonight's game.

Probable Starters

PG: Isaiah Thomas................... SG: Avery Bradley

SF: Jae Crowder........... PF: Amir Johnson......... C: Jared Sullinger

Celtics Reserves

Evan Turner
Marcus Smart
Jonas Jerebko
Terry Rozier
James Young
Kelly Olynyk
RJ Hunter
Tyler Zeller
David Lee


Jordan Mickey (ankle) out

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Possible Starters

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

SF: LeBron James................. PF: Kevin Love ............... C: Tristan Thompson

Cavs Reserves
Iman Shumpert
Tristan Thompson
Richard Jefferson
Mo Williams
James Jones
Anderson Varejao
Sasha Kaun

Matthew Dellavedova (hamstring) day to day

Head Coach

Tyron Lue

Key Matchups
Jae Crowder vs LeBron James
A banged up Jae will have his hands full in defending LeBron who is averaging 24.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.4 assists. LeBron loves the Celtics and in 40 regular season games against them he is averaging 29.7 points, the second highest against any opponent. The only team he averages more against is the Thunder (29.73).

Amir Johnson vs Kevin Love
Love will probably still be looking for some revenge against the team that ended his playoff run last season. He is averaging 16.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists and needs to be covered both on the perimeter and in the paint.

Honorable Mention

Isaiah Thomas vs Kyrie Irving
Irving missed the first meeting between these two teams but he is back now and playing very well. He is averaging 17.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists. He will be a tough matchup for Isaiah.

Keys to the Game
Defense Defense Defense!! Defense is key to winning every game. The Celtics need to continue to play tough defense. The Cavs are averaging 105.3 points per home game this season, which is tops in the East. Over their last 3 home games they are averaging 115.3 points and shooting 53.6% from the field. They are also averaging 29.3 assists over the last 3 home games. The Celtics have to match their defensive intensity if they have any hope to win this game.

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 run on every possession in order 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. The Cavs are a good defensive team and so the Celtics need to try to beat their defense up the court.

Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the more aggressive team. They have to beat the Cavs to every loose ball and win the 50/50 balls. They have to be aggressive on the boards and in driving into the paint and to the basket. They have to be the team that works harder.

Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have to play hard 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 build a lead.

Move the Ball - The Celtics need to move the ball and find the open man. When they stop moving the ball and try to do too much individually, they struggle. They have to keep the ball moving but at the same time, they have to make good passes and not allow the Cavs to force turnovers.

Officiating - As always, the officiating is an x-factor. Every crew officiates differently and teams never know what to expect. Sometimes they let them play and other times they call a foul on every possession. Some games they call evenly and others they favor one team or the other. It's like Forrest Gump's box of chocolate... you never know what you are going to get. In most games against the Cavs, however, the Cavs seem to get the benefit of way too many calls. If they would call LeBron for even half of his charges and travels, their record might not be quite so good.

Revenge Factor
- There is the Celtics desire to avenge the 89-77 drubbing they received from the Cavs this season. Then there is their desire to avenge the 4 game sweep in the playoffs. The Cavs would like to avenge Love's arm or JR's suspension or even all the beatings they took during the Big 3 era. They may even be looking to avenge Wednesday's loss and just take it out on the Celtics. Either way, it will probably be a chippy game.

Road Factor
- The Cavaliers play very well at home with just 3 losses there this season. The Celtics are above .500 on the road, but not anywhere as dominant on the road as the Cavs are at home. Hopefully the Celtics can overcome any distractions that come up on the road and focus on getting a win.

Official Report
Bill Spooner

Over the past 26 seasons, Bill Spooner has worked 1,425 regular season games and 102 playoff games. In addition to his NBA experience, Spooner has seven years of collegiate officiating experience in the Pac-10, Big West and West Coast Conferences. He also has eight years of high school officiating experience in his home state of California. Spooner was the ref who was caught on tape by a reporter telling Kurt Rambis that he would make up for a bad call he made on his team at the other end. There was some controversy over it and David Stern vowed to investigate it but nothing ever came of it.

In a game last season against the Cavs, the refs called the game fairly even for 3 quarters and then very one sided for the Cavs in the 4th quarter with the final free throw disparity 37-23 in favor of the Cavs. There were several obvious bad calls against the Celtics that even Cavs fans questioned. Against Memphis last, there were quite a few terrible calls, the worst of which when the ball very obviously hit the rim on a shot to beat the shot clock. The Celtics got the rebound and put the ball back in and at that point, they called a 24 second call on the last shot. He called a preseason game against the Knicks but this is the first regular season game for Spooner this year. The Celtics are 1-0 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Spooner while the Cavs are 4-6 in their last 10 with Spooner and this is their first game with him this season. His home team W/L record this season is 15-12 so he's not easily influenced by the home crowd.

Steve Anderson
Steve Anderson enters his third NBA season having officiated 99 regular season games. He joined the full-time staff in 2013-14 after six seasons as a referee in the NBA D-League and already having officiated 18 regular season NBA games as a non-staff official. Anderson officiated the FIBA U19 World Championships in the Czech Republic in 2013. This season in a game vs the Nets, the officiating was one sided toward the Nets and Brooklyn took 30 free throws to 14 for the Celtics and that was after they tried to even it up down the stretch. He also called a game vs the Pacers last season in which there were quite a few head scratching calls that prompted a "That's terrible!" from Tommy several times.

He called the win over Miami this season and for the most part let both teams play. But, made a few bad calls against the Celtics down the stretch. With just over 2 minute left, they called a foul on Amir Johnson for a foul when Amir and Bosh were both scrambling for a loose ball. Amir was on the floor with the ball and Bosh landed on top of him. It gave Miami possession in a close game. In a game vs the Knicks this season, the refs weer ok for the 1st three quarters but were terrible down the stretch, letting the Celtics get mugged several times with no calls and calling fouls on the Celtics for minimal contact. They let free throws decide the game. The Celtics are 1-1 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games with Anderson while the Cavs are 1-0 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with Anderson. His home W/L record is 20-11.

James Williams

James Williams enters his sixth NBA season having officiated 278 regular season games and 3 playoff games. Williams owns 10 years of experience in the collegiate ranks, having officiated for the NCAA from 2001-2010. He also officiated two seasons in the WNBA, and has worked two NBA D-League Finals as well as the 2010 NBA D-League All-Star Game.

There hasn't been a lot of controversy with James Williams as a referee. None of his games stand out as terribly bad as with some refs. Williams called the game against Miami earlier this season along with Anderson and for the most part they let them play. However, he made a head scratching call against the Celtics. With just over a minute left, he called a foul on Amir Johnson, when Johnson and Bosh were both scrambling for the ball and Bosh landed on Amir. That gave Miami possession in a close game. Other than that, he's been decent in the games he has called for the Celtics. The Celtics are 2-1 this season and 7-3 in their last 10 games with Williams while the Cavs are 1-1 this season and 3-7 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 20-17.