After missing the last two games at home, the Celtics are back on the road to visit the Cleveland Cavaliers. This is the 4th and final game between these two teams this season. The Celtics have won all three of the games so far. This is the Cavaliers’ 3rd game of a 5 game home stand. The Cavaliers made a lot of changes at the trade deadline and this is the first time they are meeting since then.
The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games. They are 4-4 overall playing on the second night of back to back games and they are 2-2 when the games are home and then road. It is very strange, but they are also 4-4 on the first night of back to back games.
The Celtics are 3rd in the East and have fallen to 1.5 games behind the Toronto Raptors, who won in Phoenix, and 2.5 games ahead of the Miami Heat. They are 18-12 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Cavaliers are in last place in the East, 1 game behind the Atlanta Hawks. They are 9-24 at home and 4-6 in their last 10 games. They have lost their last 3 games.
Kemba Walker returned to the Celtics on Tuesday night on a minute restriction and will not travel to Cleveland with the team. Jayson Tatum is probable after missing Tuesday’s game with an illness. Gordon Hayward left Tuesday’s game with a knee contusion and is out for this game.
Jaylen Brown came up holding his hamstring a couple of times on Tuesday but finished out the game and is also out. Javonte Green left Tuesday’s game with an ankle injury and is probable for this game. I’m going to take a wild guess that Smart, Langford and Green will start inplace of Kemba, Brown and Hayward but it’s hard to tell who Stevens will go with.
The Cavaliers are very short handed. Andre Drummond (calf), Dante Exum (ankle), Alfonzo McKinnie (heel), Darius Garland (groin), and Dylan Windler (leg) are all listed as out for the Cavaliers. Tristan Thompson is listed as questionable with a knee injury and will be a game time decision.
Probable Celtics Starters
Robert Williams III
Jayson Tatum (illness) probable
Kemba Walker (load management) out
Gordon Hayward (knee) out
Jaylen Brown (hamstring) out
Javonte Green (ankle) probable
Two Way Players
Probable Cavaliers Starters
Dylan Windler (leg) out
Darius Garland (groin) out
Alfonzo McKinnie (heel) out
Dante Exum (ankle) out
Andre Drummond (calf) out
Tristan Thompson (knee) questionable
Two Way Players
Daniel Theis vs Kevin Love
Love has give the Celtics problems in the past. In the last game between them, Love had 30 points and 7 rebounds. He is averaging 17.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. He is shooting 45.3% from the floor and 37.9% from beyond the arc. Theis has to stay with him in the paint as well as on the perimeter because he can score from anywhere.
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 20.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. He is shooting 46.4% from the field and 38.8% from beyond the arc. He will have his work cut out for him against Marcus Smart’s defense, though.
Javonte Green vs Cedi Osman
Osman has played well against the Celtics in the past. He is averaging 10.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. He is shooting 44.5% from the field and 37.8% from beyond the arc. He is also one of Cleveland’s better defenders. I’m guessing that it will be Green who starts at the three but it could be anyone.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning games. The Celtics are 4th in the league with a defensive rating of 105.9 while the Cavs are 30th with a defensive rating of 115.1. The Cavs are shooting 46% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc, while the Celtics are shooting 46% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc. The Celtics must make playing defense a priority in this game and for the remainder of the season.
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 44.1 rebounds per game while the Celtics are averaging 46.0 rebounds per game. The Celtics must crash the glass as a team and give extra effort on the boards in this game.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics need to be aggressive in diving for loose balls, in driving to the basket and in crashing the boards. They have to defend aggressively and they have to play harder than the Cavaliers on both ends of the court. The Celtics lost to the Nets mostly because they allowed them to be more aggressive and play harder. They have to be aggressive from the opening tip until the final buzzer.
Don’t Underestimate - It would be easy to underestimate the Cavaliers with 5 players out and another questionable. They haven’t been very good, even at full strength and with them being short handed it would be easy to expect to win without a lot of effort. But, that always backfires. The Nets have lost 3 games to the Celtics already this season and they are going to want to avoid a sweep. They will play hard and if the Celtics don’t match their effort, they could be surprised with another loss.
On the Road - The Celtics are back on the road and they need to stay focused and not allow the hostile environment to take them out of their game. Even though they have only won 9 games at home, they may be motivated by the crowd, who will undoubtedly be cheering loudly against the Celtics. The Celtics must stay focused.
Injuries - Both teams will be short handed. The Celtics are missing three of their starters with 2 others possibly not being at 100%. The Cavs are missing 5 players and possibly a 6th. Which team’s remaining players will pick up the slack and play harder?
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.