The Celtics head to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers for the 2nd time already this season. They will play two more times this season - on March 1 in Boston and on March 6 in Cleveland. The Cavaliers lead the series 1-0 after their 132-123 overtime win in Boston on October 28. Both teams last played on Sunday with the Celtics beating the Wizards and the Cavs beating the Knicks.
The Celtics are 2-1 on the road and 2-1 at home. The Cavaliers are 3-0 at home and 2-1 on the road. The Celtics are looking to win their 2nd straight game while the Cavs have won their last 5 games and are looking to extend their win streak to 6. Celtics will look to avenge their October 28 home loss to the Cavs by winning one on the Cavs home court.
The Celtics were without Grant Williams due to his suspension for bumping a referee in the Celtics’ previous game against the Cavs. The Celtics can definitely use his scoring and defense off the bench in this one. Robert Williams III is still rehabbing his knee and is expected to be out until possibly January. Danilo Gallinari remains out with the ACL tear and is expected to miss the entire season.
Ricky Rubio remains out for the Cavaliers and is expected to return some time in December. Raul Neto is doubtful for this game with an ankle injury. Darius Garland is questionable for this game. He was a full participant in Tuesday’s practice and could possibly play. Dylan Windler has yet to play for the Cavs and is listed as questionable for the first time this season.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) out
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Cavaliers Starters
2 Way Players
Darius Garland (eye) questionable
Ricky Rubio (knee) out
Dylan Windler (ankle) questionable
Raul Neto (ankle) doubtful
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 32.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He is shooting 49.6% from the field and 45.5% from beyond the arc. He put up 41 points in the first game between these two teams and slowing him down will be key to winning this game.
Derrick White vs Caris LeVert
LeVert is averaging 14.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 33.3% from the field and 48.5% from beyond the arc. He put up 41 points in the Celtics first game against the Cavaliers and the Celtics must defend him well, especially on the perimeter, where he is dangerous.
Jayson Tatum vs Evan Mobley
Mobley is averaging 15.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. He is shooting 55.4% from the field and 25.0% from beyond the arc. He is a good defender and could make things difficult for Tatum on offense. He put up 19 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks in the Celtics first meeting with the Cavs. The Celtics will need a good game from Jayson on both ends of the court and on the boards.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning games. The Celtics finally played good defense in their last game against the Wizards and hopefully, they will continue to play tough defense in this game. The Cavaliers are a good defensive team with a 105.3 defensive rating, which is third in the league. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 114.5, which is 22nd. The Celtics allowed the Cavs to shoot 51% from the field and 52% from beyond the arc in their first meeting. 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 lead the league with 42.7% shooting 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 43.7 rebounds per game (18th) while the Celtics are averaging 40.3 rebounds per game (28th). The Celtics are next to last in the league in offensive rebounds with just 8 per game. 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 15.2 turnovers per game while the Celtics average 13.8 turnovers per game. The Cavs have been successful in forcing turnovers and are 4th in the league with 20.5 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.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics have got to be the more aggressive team. They have to be aggressive in going after rebounds, on defense, in diving for loose balls, in driving to the basket and just overall play harder. The Celtics also must be aggressive for 48 minutes and not let up for any time or the Cavs will take advantage of their slacking off. The Celtics have to be the team that plays harder from tip off to the final buzzer.
Revenge - Just 5 days ago, the Celtics were outplayed all the way around by the Cavaliers. They were out rebounded 42-34 and 9-5 on offensive rebounds. They turned the ball over 19 times and allowed the Cavs to outplay them down the stretch. They allowed the Cavs to shoot 51.7% from the field and 45.7% from beyond the arc. The Cavs are likely 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. The refs have been calling games fairly tight and have been quick to call techs this season. The Celtics have to adjust to how the game is being called and focus on the game and not on the calls.