Watch It! – Cavaliers at Celtics
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers Lakers meet at 8 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.
No Big Deficits
During both of their matchups this season with Cleveland, the Celtics have fallen behind by double-digits by halftime and by at least 18 points during the first three quarters of play. That’s not a recipe for success.
In order to beat a team that is supreme – and there is no arguing that the Cavaliers, the reigning champs, are supreme compared to the Celtics – Boston must stay in contention throughout the contest. The C’s don’t want to put themselves in a position where they need to attempt a massive comeback. Instead, they need to either maintain a lead throughout the game or prevent the Cavs from pulling ahead by double-digits.
Connecting on 3s
Drilling 3s at a consistent rate tonight would go a long way toward helping the Celtics accomplish what was discussed above.
Long-range shooting is one of the hallmarks of Boston’s offense. The C’s enter tonight’s game averaging the third-most 3-point makes per game in the league (12.2) – ahead of the Golden State Warriors. Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley have led that charge.
Boston has averaged 11.5 made 3-pointers during two games this season against Cleveland. It would prefer that number to be a couple of notches higher, but more importantly, the C’s need to shoot it from long distance at a higher clip. They have made only 33.3 percent of their 3s against the Cavs, which is a steep drop off from their seasonal 3-point percentage of 36.7 percent.
Turnovers and Rebounds
Brad Stevens always talks about not giving high-level teams extra possessions. The only way for the Celtics to avoid doing so tonight is by taking care of the ball and by attacking the glass.
Boston was one of the top teams in the league at taking care of the ball before the All-Star break. It ranked fifth in the NBA with an average of only 12.8 turnovers per game through its first 57 contests. However, since the break, the C’s have been committing 15.3 turnovers per game, which is a number that just won’t cut it against Cleveland.
The Celtics had also seen an uptick in their rebounding before the All-Star break, as they hauled in 49.3 percent of available rebounds over their final 13 games. That was a middle-of-the-pack percentage for Boston, which is fine for them. If they reach that number tonight, all while taking care of the ball, they should be in good shape.
Cavs Doing Just Fine
Whispers of futility had surrounded the Cavs since they lost Kevin Love to injury and since they dropped six of eight games from Jan. 10 to Jan. 25. All they’ve done since then is go 11-4.
Led by the supreme play of LeBron James, who has averaged 26.0 points, 10.3 assists and 7.7 rebounds per game since Jan. 25, the Cavs have been just fine, and they’ll continue to be just fine. Their recent additions of Deron Williams, Derrick Williams, and, reportedly, soon-to-be Cav Andrew Bogut, will only strengthen their cause tonight and beyond. Deron Williams is set to make his debut with Cleveland tonight.
Get Horford Back on Track
Many within the Celtics have raved about what Al Horford has brought to the team this season outside of the box score, such as freeing up teammates with great screens and by opening up passing, shooting and driving lanes with his own shooting and passing ability. However, those factors do not mean that his box score numbers lack importance.
Horford has struggled mightily during his last four games. He has failed to score more than eight points during that stretch while attempting an average of only 8.8 shots per game. He averaged 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game during those contest as well, which both fall well short of his season averages.
None of those numbers are where they need to be in order for the Celtics to be successful. They need him to hover around 15 points, to grab around seven boards, and to dish out around four assists on a nightly basis. He has been far off of those numbers of late, and tonight would be a great time for him to get back on track.