Although the new look Cavaliers are the opponent for this game, the emphasis will not be on LeBron or the new faces on the Cavs, or even the game itself. The emphasis on this day will be Paul Pierce as the Celtics raise his #34 to the rafters. Of course, a Celtics win would be very nice against one of Pierce’s biggest rivals.
This is the 3rd and final meeting between these two teams in this regular season. The Cavs won in Cleveland on opening night when the Celtics lost Gordon Hayward. The Celtics then won 102-88 in January when the Cavaliers came to Boston.
The Celtics are coming off a loss to the Pacers and are 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 21-9 at home. The Cavaliers haven’t played as well on the road as they have at home with a 12-15 record on the road. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and have won their last two games.
The Cavs will be integrating several new players as none of their new players played on Friday. They plan to start George Hill at the point but beyond that, it’s hard to say which new players will get playing time in this game.
The Celtics have dropped into 2nd place in the East by win percentage. The Raptors now have the better win percentage by .002%. The Celtics still have a 1/2 game lead on the Raptors after their loss to the Pacers and the Raptors win over the Knicks. The Raptors are playing at Charlotte on Sunday and so the Celtics need a win in this one to hang onto first place.
Probable Celtics Starters
Shane Larkin (knee) out
Marcus Smart (hand) out
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Two Way Players
Probable Cavaliers Starters
Larry Nance Jr
Kevin Love (hand) out
Two Way Players
Al Horford vs LeBron James
Al Horford will be tasked with slowing down LeBron, who is averaging 26.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8.9 assists. It is also possible that Marcus Morris or Jaylen Brown will cover LeBron for part of the game since both have had success in the past.
Kyrie Irving vs George Hill
Word is that Cleveland plans to start George Hill at the point for his Cavaliers debut. He is averaging 10.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. He is shooting 45.3% from beyond the arc and so staying with him on the perimeter will be important. Kyrie vs his replacement should be an interesting matchup to watch.
Celtics Bench vs Cavs Bench
The Cavs reserves ae averaging 41.3 points per game, which is good for 5th best in the league. They have Jeff Green averaging 10.8 points while shooting 49% from the field. They also have Kyle Korver averaging 9.5 points while shooting 43.2% beyond the arc. The Celtics reserves at times struggle to score and so the Celtics will need them to come up big for them in this game.
Keys to the Game
Defense Defense Defense!! Defense is key to winning every game. The Cavs are 5th in the league averaging 109.8 points. The Celtics need to clamp down on defense if they want to get a win. The Celtics are still first in the league with a defensive rating of 100.1 while the Cavs are 28th with a defensive rating of 109.9. If the Celtics win this game, it will be with defense.
Rebound - The Celtics can’t score if they don’t have the ball. This was the Celtics’ biggest weakness last season but the team has more length and more athleticism this season and are rebounding much better this season. Much of rebounding is effort and so the Celtics have to work hard to beat the Cavs to rebounds. The Cavs are averaging 41.8 rebounds while the Celtics are averaging 44.3 rebounds. If the Celtics put out effort, they can win the rebounding battle.
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. The more aggressive team will usually get the benefit of the doubt from the refs as well. They have to be the team that works harder and the team that wants it more.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have a bad habit of starting out slow and allowing the opponent to build a big lead and then they have to play extra hard in the second half to catch up and sometimes they get the win and others they don’t. The Celtics must start strong and play hard throughout the game.
Focus - The Celtics have to remain focused and block out the distractions of playing the Cavs and the circus that always surrounds them. They also need to focus on playing the game rather than focus on the festivities surrounding Paul Pierce and the retirement of his number.
Home Game - The Celtics have the advantage of playing at home in front of what should be a very loud crowd. The Celtics have to get motivation and energy from the crowd and hopefully the crowd will be able to frustrate the Cavs at the same time.