The Celtics host the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 2nd of 4 meetings this season. The Celtics won the first matchup 119-113 on November 5 in Cleveland. They will meet two more times on December 27 in Boston and again 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.
This is the final game in a 3 game home stand for the Celtics and the last game of a 2 game road trip for the Cavs. The Celtics are 9-0 at home while the Cavs are 2-8 on the road. The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 while the Cavs are 1-9 in their last 10. The Celtics have won their last 3 games while the Cavs have lost 6 straight.
The Celtics lead the series all time 130-80 and they are 77-26 all time against the Cavs at home. The Celtics have won the last 5 meetings between these two teams. Cleveland is looking to get back on track after a brutal 141-94 loss to the Sixers in Philadelphia on Saturday night. The Celtics last played on Friday night when they beat the Nuggets 108-95.
Gordon Hayward participated in a limited practice on Sunday and declared that his hand is fully healed and that there is a possibility that he could play in this game. He went through shoot around with the intent to play in this game. He is officially listed as questionable but it very much looks like he will be playing in this game.
Marcus Smart is now questionable with an eye infection and his status will be a game time decision. It’s unclear when the eye issue developed, but Smart’s availability is now in question for this game. I’m going to take a guess that Hayward will go back into the starting lineup and hope Smart will be able to go but if not, the Celtics still should be able to beat the Cavs without him. Romeo Langford is still out with the ankle injury.
I originally thought that the Celtics would start the same five that has been starting since Hayward went out with the hand injury and bring Hayward off the bench. With Smart’s availability in question, I’m thinking that Hayward will return to the starting lineup and if Marcus can play, he will likely go back to the sixth man role where he started the season. Of course, if Smart can play, Brad may keep him in the starting lineup. We have no way of knowing right now.
Robert Williams has also been ruled out with a hip injury. He has had problems with his hip before this season and reportedly he injured it some time after Friday’s game. Vincent Poirier played with the Red Claws on Friday, but with Williams being out, I expect he will be with the Celtics for depth. For the Cavaliers, Dylan Windler is out with a leg injury. He has yet to play for the Cavs this season.
Probable Celtics Starters
Romeo Langford (ankle) out
Robert Williams III (hip) out
Gordon Hayward (hand) probable
Marcus Smart (eye) questionable
Two Way Players
Probable Cavaliers Starters
Larry Nance, Jr
Kevin Porter, Jr
Dylan Windler (leg) out
Two Way Players
Jayson Tatum vs Kevin Love
Tatum has a challenge as he is matched up with Kevin Love, who is playing well for the Cavs. He is averaging 16.1 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists. He is shooting 44% from the field and 37.1% from beyond the arc. 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 17.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. He is shooting 43.6% from the field and 32.1% 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 had 19 points and 13 rebounds in the first game between them. He is averaging 13.6 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks. He is shooting 51.1% from the field and 42.9% from beyond the arc. The Celtics’ center by committee will need to keep Thompson off the boards and 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 5th in the league with a defensive rating of 103.0 while the Cavs are 27th with a defensive rating of 113.9. The Cavs are shooting 43% from the field and 34% from beyond the arc, while the Celtics are shooting 44% 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 43.6 rebounds per game while the Celtics are averaging 46.1 rebounds per game. The Celtics are 7-2 when they out-rebound their opponents. The Celtics must 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. They are averaging just 13.2 turnovers and they have to continue to take care of the ball.
Start Strong and Don’t Let Up - The Celtics sometimes play down to their competition. They can’t afford to do that with the Cavaliers because they have some dangerous players who can definitely beat them. Sometimes they start off slowly and other times they allow sub .500 teams to hang around and both of those things can come back to bite them. They need to start out strong and play hard right up until the final buzzer.
Home Court - The Celtics are playing in the 3rd game of a 3 game home stand. They have played well at home with 9 wins without a 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. Especially with the Celtics trying to reintegrate Gordon Hayward and may possibly be missing Marcus Smart, the Celtics must play hard from start to finish with no let up.
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