The Celtics travel to Cleveland for the 2nd of 3 games against the Cavaliers this season. The Celtics beat the Cavs 141-103 in Boston on January 24. These two teams will meet for a 3rd time on May 12 in Cleveland. The Celtics are playing in the 3rd game in 4 nights.
The Celtics have slipped to 6th in the East, 7 games behind Philadelphia and 1 game behind the Heat (4th) and half a game behind Charlotte (5th). They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and 8-13 on the road. The Cavs are 12th and 4.5 out of 8th. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games and 9-10 at home. they have lost their last 4 games.
The Celtics won the series 4-0 last season. They are 134-80 all time vs the Cavs and 54-54 all time on the road. Cleveland has lost their last 9 games against the Celtics with their last win on February 11, 2018. Cleveland finished a 3 game road trip in Miami on Tuesday and this game begins a 4 game home stand for them.
Both teams are playing on the second night of back to back games. The Celtics lost to Utah 117-109 at home on Tuesday and then hit the road to take on the Cavs in Cleveland on Wednesday. The Celtics are 3-4 on the second night of back to back games. The Cavs lost to the Heat in Miami on Tuesday night. They are 4-4 on the second night of back to back games.
For the Celtics, Romeo Langford and Tristan Thompson are both out due to health and safety protocols. Kemba Walker is out for rest on the back to back. Ordinarily I would say that Marcus Smart would start at the point but he is still on a minutes restriction. Semi Ojeleye started on Tuesday and I’m going to guess that Semi may start this game at the four and possibly Jeff Teague at the point. That’s just a guess, though, but I’d rather see Smart start.
For the Cavs, Matthew Dellavedova (abdomen) and Taurean Prince (shoulder) are out. Kevin Love (calf) is also out. Larry Nance, Jr started on Tuesday and will likely start again. Andre Drummond is sitting out while they try to trade him.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Semi Ojeleye
C: Daniel Theis
Robert Williams III
Romeo Langford (covid) out
Tristan Thompson (covid) out
Kemba Walker (rest) out
Probable Cavaliers Starters
PG: Collin Sexton
SG: Darius Garland
SF: Isaac Okoro
PF: Larry Nance, Jr
C: Jarrett Allen
Matthew Dellaveova (abdomen) out
Andre Drummond (trade) out
Taurean Prince (shoulder) out
Kevin Love (calf) out
Jeff Teague vs Collin Sexton
Sexton is averaging 23.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 48% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc. I’m just guessing that Teague will get the start with Kemba out but it could be Payton Pritchard who gets the call. Personally, I’d much rather see Marcus Smart get the start here.
Jaylen Brown vs Darius Garland
Garland is averaging 15.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.1 steals. he is shooting 44% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc. Brown should be able to win this matchup.
Daniel Theis vs Jarrett Allen
Allen is averaging 13.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.7 blocks per game. He is shooting 66% from the field and 44% from beyond the arc so he is a threat to score both inside and out and Theis will need to stay with him because if he gets an open shot, most likely he will hit it.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning games. The Celtics have let their defense slip this season and need to get back to making defense a priority if they hope to get past the first round of the playoffs. The top teams in the league are there because they also have a top defense. The Celtics need to play tough team defense 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 43.2 rebounds per game while the Celtics are averaging 44.0 rebounds per game. The Celtics must crash the glass as a team and give extra effort on the boards in this game.
Play as a Team - The Celtics need to move the ball and find the open man. 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 must trust each other and move the ball and play as a team.
Play 48 Minutes -The Celtics need to start out strong and play focused for 48 minutes. If they Celtics build a lead, they have to keep playing hard and not lose focus and allow the Cavs to gain confidence. They need to play hard from start to finish.
Don’t Underestimate - It would be easy to underestimate the Cavaliers with a 14-25 record and a 38 point win over them already this season. The Celtics could easily expect to come in and win without a lot of effort. But, that always backfires. The Cavs will play hard and if the Celtics don’t match their effort, they could be surprised with another loss to a team they should beat.
Back to Back - Both teams are playing on the second night of back to back games. Both teams are playing 3 games in 4 nights. Both teams had to travel after Tuesday night’s game. Which team will have more energy down the stretch to win this game?
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. The Celtics are coming off a game in which they shot just 4 free throws for the whole game while the Jazz shot 24. Hopefully the refs call it fairly and let both teams play.