The Celtics return home from a 3 game road trip to host the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Celtics last played on Monday when they lost to the Bulls in Chicago. The Cavaliers last played on Wednesday at home when they beat the Orlando Magic. The Celtics won 3 straight to start the season and lost their 4th game. The Cavs started with a loss but have won 3 straight games.
This is the first of 4 regular season games between these two teams this season. They will meet for a second time in Boston on March 1 and will play twice in Cleveland on November 2 and then again on March 6. The Celtics won the series 2-1 last season, winning once at home and once in Cleveland. The Cavs got their win at home.
The Celtics lead the Cavaliers 136-83 overall all time. They lead the Cavaliers 81-26 all time in Boston. Both teams come into this game 2-0 at home and 1-1 on the road. With a win in this game, the Cavaliers would start the season 4-1 or better for the first time since the 2016-17 season. The Celtics are hoping to avoid losing 2 in a row.
The Celtics will be short handed off the bench in this game as Grant Williams serves a one game suspension for accidentally bumping a referee in Monday’s game. We may see more of Blake Griffin, Sam Hauser, or Luke Garland because of Grant’s absence. Robert Williams (knee) and Danilo Gallinari (knee) remain out as well. For the Cavaliers, Darius Garland (eye), Ricky Rubio (knee) and Dylan Windler (ankle) are all out.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) ou
tGrant Williams (suspended) out
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Cavaliers Starters
2 Way Players
Darius Garland (eye) out
Ricky Rubio (knee) out
Dylan Windler (ankle) out
Marcus Smart vs Donovan Mitchell
Mitchell came over to the Cavaliers in a trade from the Jazz in the off season. He has wasted no time making his mark on his new team. He is averaging 28.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He is shooting 44.3% from the field and 36.4% from beyond the arc. Slowing Mitchell down will be key to getting a win for the Celtics.
Jayson Tatum vs Evan Mobley
Mobley is averaging 15.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. He is shooting 57.5% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc. He is a good defender and could make things difficult for Tatum on offense. The Celtics will need a good game from Jayson on both ends of the court and on the boards.
Al Horford vs Jarrett Allen
Allen is averaging 13.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. He is shooting 57.9% from the field and has not taken any 3 pointers this season. He has 3 double doubles in the 4 games that the Cavaliers have played. Al will need to keep him out of the paint and off the boards.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning games. The Celtics have struggled on the defensive end so far this season and they need to get back to making defense their identity. The Celtics need to play tough team defense if they want to win. The Cavaliers are a good defensive team with a 102.0 defensive rating, which is second in the league. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 117.0, which is 24th. 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. They have to especially guard the perimeter where the Cavs are shooting 40.5% as a team.
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 44.3 rebounds per game (17th) while the Celtics are averaging 40.3 rebounds per game (26th). The Celtics need to aggressively go after every rebound. The Cavs will have more size inside and so the Celtics will need to make up for it with extra effort in going after rebounds.
Take Care of the Ball - The Cavs average 15.3 turnovers per game while the Celtics average 12.5 turnovers per game. The Cavs have been successful in forcing turnovers and are 7th in the league with 20.3 points off turnovers. The Celtics need to make crisp and careful passes and watch for Cavs in the passing lanes. They also need to be careful dribbling and not get careless and dribble into a crowd or dribble off their feet or step out of bounds. Do not give the Cavs extra possessions.
Effort and Focus - The Celtics need to stay focused on playing the game the right way and not on complaining about the refs’ calls that they disagree with. The refs are clearly out to make a point this season and they are very quick to call techs for complaining. Complaining about calls is just giving the other team extra points this season. They also have to play with effort. The team that plays harder and is more aggressive is usually the team that comes out on top. The short handed Celtics can’t afford to let the Cavaliers play harder than them.
Rust vs Rest - The Celtics have been off since Monday and they should be well rested, but sometimes when they play after 3 days off, they are a little rusty. Hopefully they have spent the past 3 days thinking about the loss to the Bulls and will come out with a chip on their shoulders and will play well.
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. They all seem to be quick to call techs this season and so the Celtics need to keep their composure at all times. 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.