After a big home win over the Thunder, the Celtics visit the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 3rd of 4 meetings this season. The Celtics won the first matchup 128-95 on November 30 in Boston. They then won the second meeting 123-103 on January 23, also in Boston. They will meet one more time on March 26 in Cleveland.
The Celtics have moved up to 3rd in the East, tied with Philly but owning the tie breaker over them. They are 3.5 games behind Toronto for 2nd and 5 games behind Milwaukee for first. Indiana is half a game behind the Celtics in 5th. The Celtics are 9-1 in their last 10 games and 12-13 on the road. They have won their last 4 games.
The Cavs have long ago given up any thoughts of playoffs as they are 14th in the East, 13 games out of playoff position. They are 6-20 at home and 3-7 in their last 10 games. They lost their last game on Friday after winning two straight. The Cavs have won their last 4 games against the Celtics in Cleveland. Those were all in the LeBron era, however.
The Celtics will be without Kyrie Irving. He is listed as out due to hip soreness but with the trade deadline on Thursday, there are a lot of questions about his absence. He also missed the last game against the Cavs in January. Aron Baynes is out with a foot contusion and Marcus Morris is also out with knee soreness.
The Cavs are without John Henson (wrist), Kevin Love (toe), Cedi Osman (ankle), Tristan Thompson (foot) and JR Smith (head case). Osman was injured in Friday’s game against Dallas. Love is reportedly close to a return but is expected to remain out for this one. Nick Stauskas came over from Portland in the trade of Rodney Hood and may or may not be ready to play. Since they are so shorthanded, they may have their two way players with the team.
Terry Rozier should start once again at point guard with Kyrie out. For the Cavs, their starting small forward was just traded and their starting power forward was injured on Friday. I’ve taken a guess that Jordan Clarkson will start at small forward and Larry Nance Jr will start at power forward. That’s just my guess, however.
PJ Dozier and Robert Williams have been called up from the Maine Red Claws for more depth. Williams is out with a sore back, however. The Celtics could go with Jaylen Brown or Gordon Hayward to replace Morris in the starting lineup or they could keep the rotation in place and replace him with Semi Ojeleye. I’m going to guess that Brad starts Hayward to give him more confidence. But again, that’s just my guess.
Probable Celtics Starters
Jabari Bird (personal) out
Kyrie Irving (hip) out
Aron Baynes (foot) out
Marcus Morris (knee) out
Robert Williams (back) out
Two Way Players
P. J. Dozier
Probable Cavaliers Starters
Wade Baldwin, IV
John Henson (wrist) out
Kevin Love (foot) out
Nick Stauskas (knee) out
Tristan Thompson (foot) out
JR Smith (head case) Not with team
Cedi Osman (ankle) out
Two Way Players Deng Adel
Terry Rozier vs Collin Sexton
One of the key parts of the trade that brought Kyrie from the Cavs to the Celtics was the Nets draft pick. That pick became Collin Sexton. Sexton is averaging 14.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. Terry usually plays good in his starts and he should get the better of this matchup.
Gordon Hayward vs Jordan Clarkson
With Rodney Hood now playing for the Blazers, I’m going to guess that this will be the matchup at small forward. Clarkson is averaging 16.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
Jayson Tatum vs Larry Nance, Jr
With Cedi Osman out with a sore ankle, I’m guessing that Larry Nance will be starting at the power forward. He is averaging 8.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. With Morris out, I’m guessing that Tatum will be matched up with him at power forward.
Keys to the Game
Defense As always, defense is the key to every single game. The Celtics’ defense has looked pretty good lately even though they gave up 129 points to the Thunder. They MUST communicate and they have to play tough lock down defense both in the paint and on the perimeter in every game. They can’t let up and figure they can win just because it’s just the Cavs. Defense is the key!!!!!
Rebound - Rebounding is second to defense in importance for the Celtics to get a win. Much of rebounding is effort and so the Celtics have to work hard to beat the Cavs to rebounds. When the Celtics put out the extra effort needed to win the rebounding battle, that usually translates to the rest of the 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 have to take care of the ball and at the same time keep it moving.
Start Strong and Don’t Let Up - The Celtics seem to always play down to their competition. They have been beaten by teams who are definitely not as good and should have been easy for the Celtics to beat. Allowing the sub .500 teams to hang around will sometimes come back to bite them. They need to start out strong and play hard right up until the final buzzer.
Trap Game - This shouldn’t be a trap game with as bad as the Cavaliers are and as short handed as they are, but the Celtics have a way of underestimating teams, even teams as bad as the Cavs. The Celtics will hopefully take the Cavs seriously and will dominate this 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, or the Celtics ability to play down to a weaker opponent.
On the Road - The Celtics are now 12-13 on the road. They have said that they aren’t sure why they have struggled on the road, but hopefully they figure it out and come out focused and play well in this one. They need to be able to block out the distractions of playing on the road and the hostile crowd and focus on playing Celtics basketball.