Cleveland Cavaliers (41-17) at Boston Celtics (38-22)
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #61, Home Game #30
TV: ESPN, CSN-NE, FSO
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, WTAM 1100
Referees: Scott Foster, Tyler Ford, Pat Fraher
The second place Celtics host the East leading Cavaliers for the 3rd of 4 meetings this season. The Cavaliers are 2-0 after winning 128-122 on 11/3/16 and 124-118 on 12/29 with both games in Cleveland. They will face off one final time on April 5 in Boston.
The Cavaliers are 8-2 in their last 10 games and are coming off a win over the Bucks on Monday. They are looking to win their second straight game. The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 and are coming off a loss to the Hawks. They have lost 3 of the 4 games they have played since the All Star Break. The Cavs are 15-11 on the road while the Celtics are 20-9 at home.
The Celtics stood pat at the trade deadline and have not made a move to pick up any of the players who have been waived and they still haven't addressed their need for more rebounding or a consistent scorer to help Isaiah. There are still a few players available who may be able to help but Danny has said that he's happy with the team as constituted.
The Cavaliers, on the other hand, have greatly improved through a trade and free agent signings. They traded for Kyle Korver to address the need for more scoring off the bench with JR Smith out. They also signed Deron Williams, who will debut in this game, to address their need for a playmaker off the bench. And Andrew Bogut has committed to sign with them as well.
Avery Bradley returned to the starting lineup against the Hawks, but the Celtics didn't seem to get a boost from it as they lost to the struggling Hawks 114-98. He was on a minutes restriction and will be eased back to playing a bit at a time and so will more than likely be limited in this game as well. Gerald Green will miss the game with a heel injury.
JR Smith (thumb) and Kevin Love (knee) will both be out for the Cavaliers, but they didn't sit around worrying about how to fill in for them. They traded for Kyle Korver to make up for Smith's scoring. Korver is 2nd in the league in 3 point % at 45.5%. He is shooting 51% in 22 games for the Caves since the trade. In February he averaged 15.5 points on 60.4% shooting from the field and 58.9% from beyond the arc. Now, with a 3 time All Star in Deron Williams leading their bench, he should be even better.
The Celtics need a win in this game to keep pace with the improved Wizards and Raptors. The Wizards beat the Warriors on Tuesday to come to just 2 games behind the Celtics. The Raptors are also just 2 games behind the Celtics and host the Wizards on Wednesday. The Hawks are 4.5 games behind the Celtics and are hosting the Mavericks. The Celtics are 4 games back of the Cavs.
PG: Isaiah Thomas ........................................ SG: Avery Bradley
C: Amir Johnson
SF: Jae Crowder ............................................ PF: Al Horford
Gerald Green (heel) out
PG: Kyrie Irving ................ SG: Iman Shumpert
C: Tristan Thompson
SF: LeBron James................. PF: Richard Jefferson
Kevin Love (knee) out
JR Smith (thumb) out
Jae Crowder vs LeBron James
James is averaging 25.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 8.9 assists and shooting 54% from the field. Jae has been effective against LeBron in the past and hopefully he can slow him down in this game. In 44 regular season games vs the Celtics, James has averaged 29.5 points, his highest average against any team. He scored 30 points in the first meeting between these two teams and 23 in their second meeting.
Isaiah Thomas vs Kyrie Irving
Irving is averaging 24.6 points, 3.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists In the first two games against the Celtics he averaged 29 points and 10 rebounds. The Cavs have so many weapons it will be tough to stop them all but Irving is one of the key players to try to slow down.
Marcus Smart vs Deron Williams
Williams is expected to make his Cavaliers debut in this game. He is averaging 13.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists this season for the Mavericks. The Cavaliers bench becomes much more dangerous with a starting caliber guard leading the offense. Marcus needs to make sure that Deron's debut isn't a rousing success for the Cavs.
Keys to the Game
Defense Defense Defense!! Defense is key to winning every game. The Celtics must concentrate on getting stops and keeping the Cavaliers from scoring at will. The Cavs are 3rd in the league in scoring, averaging 111.1 points per game. The Celtics average 108.0 points per game and so they must play lock down defense and keep the hot shooting Cavs from scoring at will.
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. The Cavs are averaging 44.0 rebounds to 41.2 rebounds for the Celtics. Against the Pistons, the Celtics proved that when they gang rebound as a team, they can win the rebounding battle. They have to do that every game if they want to win.
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 plays. 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 and the team that wants it more. They allowed the Hawks to play harder than them and the results weren't good. The Celtics have to be the team that plays harder in every game.
Stay Focused - The Celtics were careless with the ball against the Hawks to the tune of 18 turnovers. They have to be more careful and focus on making crisp passes and stay focused when dribbling and not allow the Cavs to intercept their passes or steal the ball off the dribble. The Celtics must stay focused and not get sloppy with the ball.
Motivation - The Celtics currently have a tenuous hold on the second seed in the East but there are 3 teams who could very easily overtake them. They have to be motivated to play their best if they hope to keep home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Danny kept the team together and that should be motivation for them to play as one and to get back to their one against the world attitude they had last season.
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. The Celtics must play through it and not let the officials take them out of the game.