The Celtics finally come back after a long break to host the Cleveland Cavaliers. This will be the first match-up against the Cavs where it won’t be a prime time game circled on the calendar. Boston looks to continue their past few game successes as they won two out of three games before this four-day hiatus. Luckily, with this Cleveland team in disarray, the Celtics should take care of business at home even with a short-handed roster.
In these past three games, the Celtics have finally started the game with their best five players. Unfortunately, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown have just not been the same players this season. Because of that, those two coming off the bench has been the best solution for this team. Tonight, they will once again look towards a different starting lineup because both Al Horford and Jaylen Brown have been ruled out for this game.
As for the Cavaliers, not much has gone right since losing LeBron James. It does seem to make sense then that the team is 4-16 and last in the Eastern Conference. Even J.R. Smith has had enough with this team as he is split off from the team until he gets dealt to a better situation. They are coming off a defeat on the road against the Thunder on Wednesday night.
Their bright spot over the last few games has been rookie point guard Collin Sexton. He has averaged about 20 points in his last five games as he is trying to find his groove offensively in the league. In college at Alabama, Sexton was a proficient scorer around the rim that stood out against inferior NCAA competition. This year, it took him awhile to get started, but Sexton is finally finding his rhythm creating for himself. He definitely will not be the player to beat the Celtics on his own, but it is fun to watch some of the new talent in the league and how they adjust throughout the season.
The Celtics will have had four days to go over what has gone wrong generally throughout this season. The two wins against the Pelicans and Hawks showed a different team that was focused on pace and their style of play. That had been lacking most of the season and can be replicated against this Cavs team which lacks in the defensive category. Similar to the Hawks game, Boston will have a chance to play an up-pace tempo and score points in bunches.
As mentioned, the Celtics will be without Jaylen Brown nursing a lower back injury and Al Horford due to rest. We have seen the success the Celtics have shown without as many players to get touches, so this may be a good opportunity for the Celtics offense to go off. It has shown in the past two wins. As for the Cavs, they will be a completely different team from the last time they were in town for regular season action. They will be without Kevin Love, George Hill, J.R. Smith, and Sam Dekker. David Nwaba is day-to-day so his status for this one is questionable. Also, they just recently traded Kyle Korver, so most of the lineup from the playoffs last year will not be in this game.
The starters will be in question until Stevens makes his final decision. He has gotten pleasure out of changing the lineup in most games, so we will not know final until a few hours before tip. Look for Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart to find the starting lineup again, unless Brad inserts Gordon Hayward back into the starting mix. No matter the starting lineup, the Celtics need to win this one handily without any cause for concern.
PG - Kyrie Irving – Collin Sexton
SG - Marcus Smart – Rodney Hood
SF - Jayson Tatum – Cedi Osman
PF - – Marcus Morris Sr. - Larry Nance Jr.
C – Aron Baynes – Tristan Thompson
Boston – Al Horford (Rest); Jaylen Brown (Lower back)
Cleveland- Kevin Love (Out- Toe); George Hill (Questionable- Shoulder); David Nwaba (Questionable- Knee); Sam Dekker (Out- Ankle); JR Smith (Out- Attitude)
How to Watch
Time – 7:00 PM EST
TV – NBC Sports Boston