The Celtics host the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 3rd of 4 meetings this season. The Celtics won the first matchup 119-113 on November 5 in Cleveland and they won the 2nd game 110-88 in Boston on 12/9. They will meet one more time on March 4 in Cleveland. The Celtics also beat the Cavs twice in the preseason: 118-72 with everyone playing and then again 118-95 with their top 6 players sitting out.
The Cavaliers are beginning a 3 game road trip while the Celtics are starting a 2 game home stand. The Celtics are playing in the first game of rare home and home back to back games. They host the Toronto Raptors on Saturday for a rematch of the Christmas day game that the Celtics won.
Both teams are looking to continue win streaks with the Celtics looking for their 5th straight win and the Cavaliers looking for their 4th straight win. The Celtics are 2nd in the East and are 14-4 vs Eastern Conference foes. The Cavaliers are 12th in the East and are 6-18 vs the East. The Celtics are 12-1 at home and 8-2 in their last 10 games while the Cavs are 3-11 on the road and 4-6 in their last 10 games.
The Celtics are slowly getting healthy again. Gordon Hayward returned to the lineup on Wednesday after missing 3 games with a sore foot. Marcus Smart has returned to practice after missing 7 games with an eye infection. He was been upgraded to questionable for this game but now has been ruled out. Vincent Poirier (finger) and Robert Williams (hip) both remain out for this game.
Cleveland just traded a key bench player, Jordan Clarkson, to Utah for Dante Exum and 2 second round picks. Exum is listed as a game time decision for this game. Larry Nance, Jr missed Monday’s game with knee soreness but has had 4 days to rest and is questionable for this game. He will be a game time decision. Dylan Windler (leg) is out with a stress reaction in his leg.
Probable Celtics Starters
Vincent Poirier (finger) out
Robert Williams III (hip) out
Marcus Smart (eye) out
Two Way Players
Probable Cavaliers Starters
Kevin Porter, Jr
Dylan Windler (leg) out
Dante Exum (new player) game time decision
Larry Nance, Jr (knee) questionable
Two Way Players
Jayson Tatum vs Kevin Love
Tatum will be tasked with trying to limit Kevin Love who is averaging 16.2 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. He is shooting 44.2% from the field and 37.3% from beyond the arc. He went through a little slump but seems to be back on track again now. Along with trying to slow down Love on the offensive end, Tatum needs to make him work on defense.
Jaylen Brown 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 17.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. He is shooting 45.3% from the field and 28.3% from beyond the arc. Hopefully Jaylen Brown will be able to stay with him and keep him from having a big game.
Daniel Theis vs Tristan Thompson
Thompson didn’t play in either of the preseason games between these two teams. He averaged 18.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and shot 57.7% from the field in the two games so far this season. He is averaging 12.9 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game on the season. He is shooting 51.1% from the field and 42.9% from beyond the arc. Theis will need to keep Thompson off the boards and will have to stay with him both in the paint and on the perimeter.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games and defense wins championships. The Celtics are 2nd in the league with a defensive rating of 103.5 while the Cavs are 29th with a defensive rating of 113.9. The Cavs are 25th with an offensive rating of 105.1 but over their last 7 games, they are averaging 111.9 points on 48.6% shooting and 12.9 three pointers made. 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 44.2 rebounds per game while the Celtics are averaging 46.1 rebounds per game. Both Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love are good rebounders and so the Celtics must box out and crash the glass as a team and give extra effort on the boards in this game.
Move the Ball Carefully - The Celtics get into trouble when they take quick shots and don’t move the ball enough to get the defense out of position. Their assists are usually down in their losses and up in their wins. The Celtics have to move the ball and find the open man. Hero ball doesn’t win games. But, they have to be careful with their passes and not give the Cavs opportunities for extra possessions.
Don’t Lose Focus - The Celtics are coming off of a big win over the Raptors and have easily beaten the Cavs 4 times already, including twice in the preseason. They need to stay focused on playing Celtics basketball and not underestimate the Cavs, who have been playing better as of late and are on a 3 game win streak. The Celtics must approach this game focused and ready to play their hardest against this Cavs team.
Home Court - The Celtics are beginning a 2 game home stand. They have played well at home with 12 wins and only one loss on their home court. The Celtics need to continue to draw motivation and energy from the home crowd and protect their home court.
Trap Game - The Celtics will hopefully take the Cavs seriously and will dominate this game. However, never underestimate the opponent’s desire to beat the Celtics, even if they are tanking. It seems as though every team gives the Celtics their very best effort. The Celtics must play hard and not take the Cavs for granted.
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.