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Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics Game #32 12/22/21

The Celtics look to get back to .500 as they host the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

The depleted Celtics finish up their 5 game home stand as they host the also depleted Cleveland Cavaliers. The Celtics are 2-2 so far in the 4 games of their home stand. This is the third and final regular season meeting between these two teams. The Cavaliers won the first game 91-89 on November 13 in Cleveland and the Celtics won the second game 98-92 on November 15 also in Cleveland.

The Cavaliers are 3rd in the East and have won their last 6 games. They are 10-5 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 12-6 against other Eastern Conference teams. The Celtics are 9th in the East and are coming off a loss to the 76ers. They are 8-6 at home and 4-6 in their last 10 games. They are 10-9 against other Eastern Conference teams. The Celtics are 135-83 all time against the Cavaliers. They are 80-36 in Boston.

The Cavaliers have been off since Saturday when they beat the Milwaukee Bucks on the road. Their game on Sunday against the Hawks was postponed due to not enough players being available for both teams to field 8 players. The Cavs are playing in the final game of a 3 game road trip, with the second game postponed. The Celtics are finishing up their 5 game home stand and will play 2 on the road and then come back home for another 4 game home stand.

Both teams have extensive injury lists. For the Celtics, Jabari Parker, Grant Williams, Al Horford, Juancho Hernangomez, Sam Hauser, Josh Richardson, and Brodric Thomas are all out due to being in the health and safety protocols. Robert Williams missed Monday’s game due to personal reasons, but isn’t on the injury list at this time. The Celtics have signed CJ Miles and Justin Jackson to 10 day contracts. I’m going to guess that the Celtics start Smart, Schroder, Brown, Tatum and Timelord. The Celtics signed 40 year old Joe Johnson to a 10 day contract and he should be available for this game.

For the Cavaliers, Jarrett Allen, Ed Davis, Evan Mobley, RJ Nembhard, Lamar Stevens, Denzel Valentine, and Dylan Windler are all out due to being in the health and safety protocols. In addition, Isaac Okoro is listed as a game time decision also due to health and safety protocols. Collin Sexton is out for the season with a knee injury. The Cavaliers have signed former Maine Celtic, Luke Kornet and Justin Anderson to 10 day contracts. I have guessed at a lineup for the Cavs but really have no idea who they plan to start with both Isaac Okoro and Jarett Allen out. I’m going to guess that they start Tacko at center against his former team.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Enes Kanter
Payton Pritchard
Bruno Fernando
Romeo Langford
Aaron Nesmith
Justin Jackson
CJ Miles
Joe Johnson

Injuries
Jabari Parker (covid) out
Grant Williams (covid) out
Al Horford (covid) out
Juancho Hernangomez (covid) out
Sam Hauser (covid) out
Josh Richardson (covid) out
Brodric Thomas (covid) out

Two-Way Players
Sam Hauser
Brodric Thomas

Head Coach
Ime Udoka

Probable Cavaliers Starters

Cavaliers Reserves
Kevin Pangos
Ricky Rubio
Justin Anderson
Luke Kornet

Injuries
Jarrett Allen (covid) out
Ed Davis (covid) out
Evan Mobley (covid) out
RJ Nembhard (covid) out
Lamar Stevens (covid) out
Denzel Valentine (covid) out
Dylan Windler (covid) out
Isaac Okoro (covid) out
Collin Sexton (knee) out

Two Way Players
Tacko Fall
RJ Nembhard

Head Coach
JB Bickerstaff

Key Matchups

Marcus Smart vs Darius Garland
Garland is averaging 19.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 7.4 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 46.7% from the field and 38.9% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to limit his scoring and also his ability to get the Cavs into their offense.

Payton Pritchard vs Ricky Rubio
Ricky Rubio always seems to have a big game against the Celtics. He is averaging 12.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game this season but in the two games against the Celtics, he averaged 22 points and 4.5 assists. He is shooting 36.3% from the field and 34.0% from beyond the arc. Payton Pritchard has found his shot and has been playing very well and the Celtics need him to continue to bring offense off the bench.

Honorable Mention
Jaylen Brown vs Lauri Markkanen
Markkanen is averaging 14.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. He is shooting 42.2% from the field and 34.8% from beyond the arc. He has a height advantage over Jaylen Brown, but Brown is more athletic and can play with more physicality.

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 at times. The Celtics need to play tough team defense if they want to win. The Cavaliers are a good defensive team with a 103.3 defensive rating, which is second in the league. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 107.5, which is 12th. 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 45.0 rebounds per game (15th) while the Celtics are averaging 45.6 rebounds per game (11th). The Celtics need to aggressively go after every rebound. In the Celtics loss to the Cavs this season, 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.

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. The Celtics have especially had problems closing out games and they have to finish strong and not collapse down the stretch.

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. With so many players out, the Celtics may try to do too much to make up for them but that doesn’t work as well as playing as a team and working together does. They have to work harder to share the ball and to have each others’ backs on both offense and defense.

X-Factors
Fatigue - With all the players out, the ones who are still playing have had to play harder and longer and fatigue could be settling in. For the second game in a row, they are facing a well rested team because they had a game postponed. Hopefully the Celtics can find another gear and play through the fatigue to get a win.

Officiating - The officiating can definitely be an x-factor in any game. Sometimes the officials call a game tight and sometimes they let them play. Sometimes they favor one team or one player and other times they call it fair. However the refs call the game, the Celtics have to adjust and not allow it to affect their focus on the game. The Celtics can’t afford to stay back and argue about fouls while the Cavs go back on offense and they can’t afford to get techs to give the Cavs extra points. They have to adjust to the calls and stay focused on playing the game.