Boston Celtics (1-2) at Cleveland Cavaliers (2-1)
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
8:30 PM ET
Eastern Conference Finals Game #4
Playoff Game #17, Road Game #8
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, ESPN Radio
Quicken Loans Arena
The Celtics come into Game 4 with a bit of confidence thanks to a surprising come from behind win on the road in Game 3. The Cavs, especially LeBron James, will come into this game looking to avenge that loss and will certainly look to start strong and try to put the Celtics away early. But the Celtics now know that they can beat the Cavs (even with the Cavs shooting 24 more free throws) and will try to make it two wins in a row.
Amir Johnson missed practice on Monday and was expected to get an MRI on his injured shoulder. He suffered the injury when Tristan Thompson put him in an arm bar similar to the one that Kelly used on Kevin Love and with a similar result, a sprained shoulder. However, Kelly was suspended for it while Thompson didn't even get called for a foul for the same move.
Amir is listed as a game time decision. Even if he is ok to play, it's not a guarantee that he will remain in the starting lineup. The Celtics have been outscored by 23 points during Johnson’s 26 minutes of playing time during this series. He was a -15 in his time in Game 3 before the injury. Brad Stevens would not comment on his starting lineup for tonight's game in his interview this afternoon and that may mean another change in the lineup is coming.
PG: Marcus Smart ........................................ SG: Avery Bradley
C: Al Horford
SF: Jae Crowder ............................................ PF: Kelly Olynyk
Isaiah Thomas (hip) out
Amir Johnson (shoulder) game time decision
PG: Kyrie Irving ................ SG: JR Smith
C: Tristan Thompson
SF: LeBron James................. PF: Kevin Love
Edy Tavares (hand) out
Deron Williams (illness) game time decision
Jae Crowder vs LeBron James
LeBron had a very unLebron-like game in Game 3, scoring just 11 points and 6 turnovers. He will more than likely come out on a mission to erase that game from his mind and so the Celtics have to be ready for extreme LeBron. It would be nice if the Celtics can keep him off his game once again but that may be too much to ask for.
Kelly Olynyk vs Kevin Love
Kelly Olynyk will get his first start of the post season in place of Amir Johnson who was injured in game 3. Love has killed the Celtics from beyond the arc and Kelly must stay with him and keep him from having another big game. I was expecting Jonas to get the start after his big game on Sunday, but Kelly gets the nod in this one.
Marcus Smart vs Kyrie Irving
Marcus was huge in Game 3, hitting 7 of 10 three pointers for 27 points. His defense also helped the Celtics to lock down the Cavs in the second half as the Celtics came back from a 21 point deficit. The Celtics will need another big game from Marcus if they hope to get a win in this one.
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. After getting whatever they wanted on offense in the first two games, the Celtics locked down on defense in the second half of Game 3 and that allowed them to get the win. The Celtics must once again lock down on defense in this game if they want to get a win.
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 Celtics did a better job of crashing the boards and getting second chance points in the second half of Game 3. They have to once again crash the boards as a team and work hard to beat the Cavs to rebounds.
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. The Celtics found their heart in Game 3 and played harder in the second half and they must do that again in this game.
Focus - The Celtics have to remain focused and block out the distractions of playing on the road. They have to focus on taking good shots and they have to make them. They have to focus on playing tough in your face defense. And they have to focus on playing Celtics basketball regardless of what the Cavs are doing. They have to stay focused and hit their shots, especially from beyond the arc. They must keep their focus for the entire game and not let up until the final buzzer.
On the Road - The Celtics have been a good road team all season. They won 3 road games against the Bulls in the first round. They weren't able to win on the Wizards court, but they were able to get a win on the road in Game 3. They have to focus on playing the game the right way and block out the distractions of playing in a hostile arena. Hopefully the Cavs will let up just enough for the Celtics to steal another game on their home court.
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, 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 if that happens. The Cavs definitely got a friendly whistle in Game 3, taking 36 free throws to just 12 for the Celtics in spite of the Celtics outscoring the Cavs 36-24 in the paint. Thompson's arm bar that dislocated Amir's shoulder, just to name one non-call.
Monty McCutchen was voted one of the best refs in the league by coaches and players in a 2016 LA Times poll. He has been decent in most Celtics games but there have been a couple of games where he has been really bad, the double OT loss to the Warriors last season is one of them. Draymond Green committed his 6th foul and they gave the foul to Curry, who was not even involved in the play. Green then played all of the 4th quarter and two overtimes without getting another foul called on him, although he committed several. Avery Bradley, who was successfully limiting Curry, fouled out on two very questionable calls. The Warriors shot 39 free throws to just 16 for the Celtics.
Derrick Stafford is known to be quick to call technical fouls. Pat Riley and Stafford have a bit of bad blood between them. Back in 2003 when Riley was coaching, he accused Stafford of shouting "It's not about you" and some other stuff at Riley when Riley complained excessively about the calls. Stafford was suspended for 2 games as a result. Stafford was also fined as a result of a complaint that Lawrence Frank made when he was coach of the Nets. A ref has to be pretty bad to be suspended or fined for an incident since the league usually feels that they can do no wrong. I found 4 other articles detailing complaints about Stafford for his actions or comments. It seems that Mr Stafford has been a hot head who loves to lash out at players and coaches who question him. Hopefully he has mellowed a bit, but Brad Stevens' calm demeanor should be a benefit when dealing with him.
This is Pat Fraher's first game with the Celtics in this post season. He hasn't been particularly good or bad in the past and for the most part has been a decent ref other than a few games that stand out. One game vs Cleveland in the playoffs two seasons ago, even the national TV announcers mentioned several times where LeBron was allowed to get away with travels and fouls that weren't called. But then it seems that most refs give LeBron his own set of rules.