The Cavs are coming off perhaps their best and most complete win of the year against the Blazers, but there’s not much time to celebrate - the Cavs immediately travel to Boston for a back-to-back against the conference-leading Celtics, though they’ll be without Isaiah Thomas, who is sitting on the second half of back-to-backs.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (25-12) at Boston Celtics (30-10)
When: 8 p.m. ET
Where: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
Enemy Blog: Celtics Blog
Cavs injuries: Derrick Rose (OUT - ankle), Iman Shumpert (OUT - left knee), Isaiah Thomas (OUT - rest)
Celtics injuries: Gordon Hayward (OUT - ankle/leg)
Three keys to the game:
- The Cavs were fortunate to have handled the Blazers in the fourth quarter so nobody on the team was forced to play extended minutes, but any back-to-back is going to be tough, especially one with a road game on the second leg. The Cavs do have two days off after this game, so they should be free to leave it all on the floor. Still, tired legs could be an issue.
- Jose Calderon guarding Kyrie Irving is what the kids would call “an enormous problem.” The Cavs will struggle to contain Irving off the bounce, and it would be wise to stick somebody else on Irving every single second Marcus Smart is on the floor. As it stands, Calderon will have to make Irving work as hard as he can. It’ll be an uphill battle there.
- How heavy will the Cavs usage of Tristan Thompson be in this game? He was great against the Blazers while only playing 17 minutes, and is historically dominant against Al Horford - Tyronn Lue should consider going to Thompson early and often, especially if he’s moving well and without pain. Until then, Jae Crowder will likely draw the early assignment while Kevin Love wrestles with Aron Baynes.
LeBron James will likely be guarded by Jaylen Brown in this one, and Brown’s athleticism could be a problem. With that said, James is still way too strong for the second-year wing, and it’ll be interesting to see how James chooses to attack him. Brown was able to get his on the other end in the season opener - will either LeBron or J.R. Smith slow him down?
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
I’m on a bit of a cold streak on predicting games, so this could be a blessing, not a curse. The Celtics take this one 104-98.