The Celtics begin a 3 game road trip with a stop in Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers. This is the first of 4 regular season meetings between these two teams. They will meed again on March 4 in Cleveland and then on December 9 and December 27 in Boston. The Cavaliers are 4-2 in their last 6 games at home against the Celtics.
When the Celtics beat the Cavaliers twice in the preseason it looked as if the Cavs would possibly be the worst team in the league. The Celtics beat them 118-72 with everyone playing and then beat them 118-95 with the top 6 players sitting out. But the Cavs have looked somewhat better in the regular season, beating both the Pacers and the Bulls.
Jaylen Brown didn’t travel with the team as he is still out with an illness and an infection. He may meet the team on the road for the other two games on the trip, however. Enes Kanter (knee) and Robert Williams (hip) both went through a full contact practice on Monday and are expected to return for this game.
I still expect Daniel Theis to get the start, even if both return to the lineup. Although Brad may decide to go with either Kanter or Williams in the starting spot. Kanter started on opening night but was injured in that game and hasn’t played since. Robert Williams started the first game vs the Knicks when Theis was out with the ankle sprain, but Theis has started every other game.
Matthew Dellavedova missed the Cavs’ last two games for personal reasons and is listed as day to day. John Henson (hamstring), Dylan Windler (leg) and Ante Zizic (foot) are all listed as out for the Cavaliers. Kevin Porter, Jr will be suspended for this game for making contact with an official as he ran off the court in Sunday’s loss to the Mavericks.
Probable Celtics Starters
Romeo Langford G League
Jaylen Brown (illness) out
Enes Kanter (knee) game time decision
Robert Williams III (hip) game time decision
Two Way Players
Probable Cavaliers Starters
Larry Nance, Jr
Matthew Dellavedova (personal) day to day
John Henson (hamstring) out
Dylan Windler (leg) out
Ante Zizic (foot) out
Kevin Porter, Jr (suspension)
Two Way Players
Jayson Tatum vs Kevin Love
Tatum is coming off a big game, including a game winner. Now he has a challenge in being matched up with Kevin Love, who is playing at an All Star level. He is averaging 19.2 points, 15.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. He is shooting 49% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. Along with trying to slow down Love on the offensive end, Tatum needs to make him work on defense.
Marcus Smart vs Collin Sexton
One of the key parts of the trade that brought Kyrie Irving from the Cavs to the Celtics was the Nets draft pick. That pick became Collin Sexton. Sexton is averaging 16.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. He is shooting 42.9% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. He will have his work cut out for him against Marcus Smart’s defense, though.
Daniel Theis vs Tristan Thompson
Thompson didn’t play in either of the preseason games between these two teams. He is averaging 16.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks. He is shooting 56.9% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. The Celtics’ center by committee will need to keep Thompson off the boards and have to stay with him both inside and out.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins championships and defense wins games. The Celtics are 9th in the league with a defensive rating of 101.4 while the Cavs are 15th with a defensive rating of 104.9. The Cavs are shooting 44% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc, while the Celtics are shooting just 42% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc. The Celtics must play tough in your face defense for the entire 48 minutes if they want to win.
Rebound - Next to defense, rebounding is a key to winning. Much of rebounding is effort and desire and when the Celtics put out the extra effort on the boards, it usually carries through to the rest of their game. The Cavs are averaging 47.8 rebounds per game while the Celtics are averaging 46.4 rebounds per game. The Celtics were out rebounded by the Knicks on Friday 51-44 and they squeaked past a team they should have dominated. The Celtics must crash the glass as a team and give extra effort on the boards in this game.
Play 48 Minutes - The Celtics have started rather slowly in their games so far and then they came on strong in the second half and at the end. The Celtics need to give a more consistent effort from start till finish. They need to come out strong and play hard right up until the final buzzer.
On the Road - The Celtics begin a 3 game road trip and they need to stay focused and not allow the hostile environment to take them out of their game. The Cavs have already won two games at home and they are averaging 112.7 points at home while shooting 47% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc on their home court. The Celtics must stay focused.
Officiating - The style of officiating can affect the outcome of a game. They don’t even have to favor one team over the other. When officials call every little bit of contact, the Celtics seem to struggle. When the refs let them play, the Celtics play much better. Hopefully the refs call it fairly and let both teams play.
Trap Game - The Celtics beat the Cavs handily in the preseason by 46 and 23 points. They might be tempted to come expecting the Cavs to be an easy opponent and not play their hardest. Last year’s team did that enough times. Hopefully this team will be different and come in ready to give the Cavs a fight and not take them for granted.