Watch It! – Celtics at Cavaliers
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers meet at 7 p.m. tonight at Quicken Loans Arena.
Riding the Wave to Cleveland
The Boston Celtics, winners of an Eastern Conference-best five straight games, have momentum on their side as they head into Cleveland tonight.
Each of Boston’s last four wins have come despite facing a double-digit deficit, and they may need some of that grit again tonight against the Cavs.
Overcoming adversity was a theme during the C’s last matchup with Cleveland exactly a month ago, as they found themselves down 15 points after the first quarter, yet rallied to pull off a thrilling victory.
Of course, Boston would prefer not to have to face such an obstacle this time around. Hopefully the momentum from their perfect home stand can continue from the tip tonight, and the C’s can jump to a quicker start out of the gate than the last time they played at Quicken Loans Arena.
If Boston can pull off a win tonight, that would give the squad a conference-best 20 wins since Jan. 13. The Cavs have 16 wins since that date.
A Bitter Taste Left in Cleveland’s Mouth
The nature of Cleveland’s 104-103 loss to the Celtics on Feb. 5 is not one that sat well with the Cavs.
With a four-point lead and 7.5 seconds remaining, it looked like the Cavaliers had the game in the bag, but a pair of defensive miscues cost them in the end. J.R. Smith committed a costly foul on an Evan Turner and-one layup. Turner missed his free throw, but 6-foot-4 Marcus Smart out-lunged Cleveland’s much larger defenders for the rebound and tapped it off LeBron James out of bounds. Avery Bradley proceeded to hit the game-winning buzzer-beater shot, completing the miracle last-second comeback.
Those types of embarrassing losses don’t sit well with James and Co., so you better believe that the Cavs will be yearning for revenge tonight as they look to defend their home court.
Cavs Jumping on the Small Ball Wagon
Small ball is quickly spreading throughout the NBA, but that style of play has not yet surfaced in the city of Cleveland.
That is, until last night, when Cavs coach Tyronn Lue sent out a new-look starting five consisting of Kyrie Irving at the 1, J.R. Smith at the 2, Iman Shumpert at the 3, James at the 4, and Timofey Mozgov at the 5. Kevin Love, who typically starts at the 4, was given the night off to rest.
With James not playing his typical small forward position, he played less of a ball-handling role. That did not hinder the Cavs in the least, however, as they soundly defeated the Wizards, 108-83.
Love should be back in the starting rotation tonight, so the Cavs may return to their traditional lineup. Don’t be surprised, however, if you see Cleveland go with a small ball lineup again at some point with Love at the 5 and James at the 4.
C's Leading the Break
The Celtics, over their last seven games, have averaged a league-best 23.4 fast break points per game. Last night, Boston lived up to that trend with a 30-4 advantage over the Knicks on the break.
Cleveland, however, excels in slowing down the pace of a game and is one of the top transition defenses in the league. The Cavs allow just 10.4 fast break points per game, which is the third-best mark in the NBA. The only defenses that have outperformed them in that department are Miami (10.2) and Boston (10.1).
Boston held a 15-7 fast break advantage over Cleveland during its win on Feb. 5, and a 9-4 advantage during its 89-77 loss to the Cavs on Dec. 15.
Thomas Keeping the Ball on a String
Isaiah Thomas’ shooting efficiency has drawn attention over the last two games, having scored 62 points at an impressive 57.1 percent from the field.
But one statistic of his that may have gone overlooked is his turnovers, or lack thereof.
Thomas has committed zero… ZERO turnovers during the last two contests, while dishing out 10 assists. Prior to this two-game stretch, he had only had two games this season during which he did not cough up the ball.
The starting point guard has gone an incredible 67 minutes since his last turnover, and he’ll need near-perfect handles again tonight when his C’s take on the Cavs.