The Boston Celtics have been a surprise to many this season. With a combination of exceptional coaching and strong defense they have found themselves in position to have home court advantage and the third seed in the Eastern Conference. The last time these teams played the Cavs lackluster effort helped keep Boston close enough to win the game at the final buzzer. They will need to play with much more intensity this time around against the resilient Celtics.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (43-17) vs Boston Celtics (38-25)
When? 7 PM
Where? Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Enemy blog: CelticsBlog
The Cavs exploration of small ball lineups Friday night was a success. With LeBron James functioning as the Megatron version of Draymond Green the Cavs were able to play with considerable pace and take advantage of his abilities off the ball. With the return of Kevin Love to the lineup tonight, it'll be interesting to see whether or not Tyronn Lue tries to implement a lot of the same looks. The one advantage this Cavs roster has is that it has the potential to be incredibly versatile, even if it hasn't been deployed in that manner to this point in the season.
One of the advantages of having Kevin Love is that LeBron can function essentially as a power forward on a lot of possessions even in conventional lineups, given Love's ability to play on the perimeter. The only problem is that it doesn't necessarily create the same matchup problems if Timofey Mozgov or Tristan Thompson are in the paint at the center position. Lue had mentioned we might see more of Love at center down the stretch, which would help negate the spacing issues of a traditional big, another way to counteract those problems would be to use Channing Frye at center more with Love at power forward. Testing some of these lineups against the Celtics stout defense might be a good way for them to figure out what legitimately works well, and what just worked because they were playing the Wizards.
Rebounding will be a big key in slowing down the Celtics. They're a bottom ten team in terms of effective field goal percentage, but make up for their misses by limiting the effectiveness of their opponents offense through defense and offensive rebounding, of which they are ranked third and seventh respectively. If the Cavs limit the amount of second chance opportunities as well as turnovers, Boston shouldn't have any chance of keeping up with the Cavs offense.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and maybe the time away from each other helped clear the heads of the players in Wine and Gold (despite the shenanigans in the media). The Cavs will have more focus after their last game against Boston, so I predict the trio of James, Irving and Love all score at least twenty and the Cavs win 108-95.