The Celtics continue their preseason with a home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. These two teams will play once again on Tuesday night in Cleveland. They will also meet 4 times in the regular season. Both teams played on Friday with the Celtics beating the Magic by 25 and the Cavs losing to the Pistons by 4.
While the Celtics and the Cavs have had a rivalry in the past, especially when LeBron James was in Cleveland and Paul Pierce was in Boston, things have changed considerably since then. The Celtics won the series easily 4-0 last season. The Cavs also have a new head coach, John Beilein, formerly the coach of Michigan State.
These two teams completed a blockbuster trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Celtics and Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s 2018 unprotected first-round pick to the Cavaliers. Kyrie left Boston for the Nets this offseason and Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder are long gone, but Colin Sexton, who was taken with that Nets’ pick, is starting for the Cavaliers and Ante Zizic remains with the team.
The Celtics have started two different centers so far with Robert Williams starting the first game and Daniel Theis starting the second game. Brad Stevens has said that Enes Kanter will likely come off the bench in the regular season but I’m thinking he may give him a start during the preseason just to see how he fits with the starters. It’s also possible that any one of the other centers - Vincent Poirier, Daniel Theis, Robert Williams, or Tacko Fall - may get the start in this game.
The Celtics should be mostly healthy with Daniel Theis, Gordon Hayward, and Romeo Langford all returning to play on Friday. Kemba Walker has been dealing with some knee soreness and will be a game time decision. For the Cavs, John Henson (groin), Dylan Windler (leg), and Ante Zizic (foot) are all listed as out. Darius Garland (ankle) is listed as doubtful.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Enes Kanter
Robert Williams III
Kemba Walker (knee) game time decision
Probable Cavaliers Starters
PG: Collin Sexton
SG: Matthew Dellavedova
SF: Cedi Osman
PF: Kevin Love
C: Tristan Thompson
Kevin Porter, Jr
Larry Nance, Jr
John Henson (groin) out
Dylan Windler (leg) out
Ante Zizic (foot) out
Darius Garland (ankle) doubtful
Kemba Walker vs Collin Sexton
Collin Sexton was the player that the Cavaliers took with the Nets’ pick from the Celtics, which was the centerpiece of that trade. He is playing good, coming off a 24 point game against the Pistons. He is averaging 16.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists in the preseason. Hopefully Kemba’s knee is feeling better and he will get the start for the Celtics, otherwise, Collin may have a tougher time scoring with Marcus Smart as the starting point guard.
Jayson Tatum vs Kevin Love
Love is the longest tenured player on the Cavaliers. There have been rumors over the years that the Celtics were interested in trading for him, but he has remained on the Cavs. He is averaging just 5.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game in the preseason but we know that he is capable of having a big game if he is not defended well.
Marcus Smart vs Jordan Clarkson
Clarkson has been playing well off the bench for the Cavs. He scored in double figures 72 times last season, which as the most among all bench players. His 1364 total points were second only to Lou Williams last season. He is averaging 13.5 points, 2 rebounds and 2.5 assists, while shooting 41.7% from beyond the arc. Marcus should be able to slow him down some in this game.
Keys to the Game
Defense - The Cavaliers have show a very disruptive defense in their two games so far. They have scored 59 points on 44 turnovers in those games. The Celtics’ defense was much improved against the Magic and they will once again need to play tough defense in this game if they want to get a win.
Rebound - The Celtics are 6th in rebounding with 50.0 per game while the Cavs are 29th with 41 rebounds per game. The Celtics need to continue to crash the boards in order to give themselves extra possessions and limit the Cavaliers’ second chance points.
Chemistry - The Celtics showed great chemistry against the Magic and their ball movement and team defense was very good. The Celtics need to continue to build chemistry among the 8 returning players and the new players and rookies so that they can avoid a repeat of last season.
Energy and Conditioning - When the Celtics played on Friday, they were coming off of 5 days rest while the Magic had played 3 road games in the previous 6 days. Both teams come into this game on just 1 day rest and the team that is better conditioned and with more energy will likely get the win.
Preseason -The preseason is a time for teams to experiment with lineups and to evaluate new players. Both coaches will use lineups that include players who likely won’t be on the team when the season starts. Wins and losses don’t count as much in the preseason as developing chemistry and determining which players work together the best.
Home Game - The Celtics are playing at home and the crowd should give them a boost. The Cavs have several young players and often young players are inconsistent on the road. Hopefully the Garden crowd will be loud and will energize the team, even though it is just a preseason game.