The Celtics face the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second straight game. This is the second of three games between these two teams this season. The Cavaliers came from 19 points down to edge the Celtics 91-89 on Saturday in their first meeting. Their final meeting will be on December 22 in Boston. The Celtics were 1-2 against the Cavaliers last season, winning at home and losing both games in Cleveland.
The Cavs are definitely not the league doormat that they have been in the past. They have a good young core and, as the Celtics found out on Saturday, they play hard and they don’t give up. They are 4-2 at home and 9-5 overall. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have won their last two games. The Celtics have won two in a row before dropping Saturday’s game to the Cavs. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and they are 4-4 on the road.
This is the second of a 3 game road trip for the Celtics. After the games in Cleveland on Saturday and on Monday, they will travel to Atlanta to face the Hawks on Wednesday. They will then have a four game home stand. Cleveland is playing in the final game of a 4 game home stand. They will then play one game in Brooklyn before beginning another 4 game home stand.
Jaylen Brown traveled with the team on the road trip but he missed the first game of the trip on Saturday and is listed as out for this game as well, even though he stated that he hoped to come back for this game. Dennis Schroder should once again start in his place. Josh Richardson (knee) and Al Horford (back) who missed Saturday’s game are listed as probable for this game.
Lauri Markkhanen will miss his 6th game due to covid health and safety protocols. Kevin Love has been released from the health and safety protocols but will miss his 8th straight game as he improves his conditioning before returning to the court. Lamar Stevens is questionable due to an ankle injury. Collin Sexton remains out due to a meniscus tear.
Probable Celtics Starters
Jaylen Brown (hamstring) out
Bruno Fernando (G-League) out
Brodric Thomas (shoulder) out
Al Horford (back) probable
Josh Richardson (knee) probable
2 Way Players
Sam Hauser (called up)
Probable Cavaliers Starters
Collin Sexton (knee) out
Kevin Love (covid) out
Lauri Markkanen (covid) out
Lamar Stevens (ankle) questionable
Two Way Players
Marcus Smart vs Darius Garland
Garland is averaging 16.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and 1.3 steals. He is shooting 48.7% from the field and 40.3% from beyond the arc. He put up 22 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 1 steal against the Celtics on Saturday. The Celtics held him to 25% on 3-pointers. With Sexton out, Garland is looking to do more in the offense and slowing him down is important for the Celtics to get a win.
Al Horford vs Evan Mobley
Mobley is a candidate for rookie of the year. Among all rookies, he is first in blocks, field goal percent, and double doubles. He is second in points and rebounds. He is averaging 15.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. He was a big reason for the Cavaliers come from behind victory on Saturday with 19 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, and 3 blocks. He brought a lot of energy and keyed the big run that gave the Cavs the win. The Celtics missed Al’s presence in Saturday’s game and hopefully he can make a difference for them in this game.
Robert Williams III vs Jarrett Allen
Allen is averaging 14.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.2 steals. He is shooting 69.4% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc. Robert Williams has become a key player for the Celtics on both ends of the court. He needs to continue his strong play in this one. He especially will need to keep Allen out of the paint and off the boards.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning games. Defense is especially important for the Celtics who have been struggling with their offense. The Celtics need to play tough team defense if they want to win. The Cavaliers are a good defensive team with a 103.4 defensive rating (5th). The Celtics have a defensive rating of 104.7 which is 9th. The Celtics must make defense a priority in this game and they have to play that tough defense for 48 minutes and not let up.
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 43.8 rebounds per game while the Celtics are averaging 46.1 rebounds per game. The Celtics need to aggressively go after every rebound. They gave up 3 offensive rebounds to the Cavs on one possession just before they hit the basket that put them ahead for good. The Celtics have to fight harder to beat the Cavs to rebounds.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics got very careless with the ball in Saturday’s game, turning the ball over 19 times to just 11 turnovers for the Cavaliers. The Celtics had several disastrous turnovers down the stretch that allowed the Cavs to make up the 19 point deficit and get the win. The Celtics must focus on their passes and on ball handling and not allow careless mistakes to derail their offense.
Play as a Team - The Celtics need to move the ball to keep the Cavs defense off balance and to get the best shot. When they do that, they play very well. When they play hero ball and over dribble and look for their own shot first, it usually ends in a loss. They have to work harder to share the ball and to have each others’ backs on both offense and defense.
Play Hard for 48 Minutes - The Celtics have to be consistent with their effort for 48 minutes. They either build a lead and then collapse down the stretch or they fall behind and have to put forth a huge effort to get back in the game. They need to start strong and play hard right up until the final buzzer.
Bench Play - The Cavaliers got a big boost from their reserves when they brought in Cedi Osman, Ricky Rubio and Dylan Windler. The Celtics had to play their bench more minutes than usual because of the back to back overtime game the night before and also because of injuries but they didn’t have anyone off the bench that affected the game as much as either Osman or Rubio. The Celtics need their young reserves to play well and hold their own against the Cavs reserves.
Revenge - The embarrassing collapse and loss to the Cavaliers on Saturday has to be on the minds of both teams as they come into this game. The Cavs are thinking that if they play hard, they can force the Celtics to wilt and fall apart on both ends of the court. The Celtics need to be thinking that if they let up, the Cavaliers will once again beat them. The Celtics need to use that loss as motivation to play hard and be aggressive from start to finish.
Officiating - Officiating is always an x-factor. Every crew calls the game a little differently with some calling it tight and others letting them play. They are not awarding free throws like they did in the past and that is frustrating many offensive players. Teams should already be getting used to that. The Celtics have to adjust to how the game is being called and focus on the game and not on the calls.