The Cleveland Cavaliers (8-5) take on the Boston Celtics (6–6) tonight for the first of their two-game series in Cleveland. The Cavs are coming off a dominant win at home against the Detroit Pistons (98-78), while the Celtics roll into Cleveland — also spicy — after taking down the shorthanded defending champion Milwaukee Bucks in overtime last night to the tune of 122-113. The naturally-televised matchup is Cleveland’s first of four this season (NBA TV).
HOW TO WATCH
Where: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse — Cleveland, Ohio
When: 8 p.m. EST
TV: NBA TV, Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports App, NBA League Pass
Spread: Cavs +2.5
Opposing blog: CelticsBlog
Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, Dean Wade, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen
Cavs injury report: Collin Sexton (OUT - meniscus), Lauri Markkanen (OUT - health & safety protocols), Kevin Love (OUT - health & safety protocols), Lamar Stevens (OUT - right ankle sprain)
Expected Celtics starting lineup: Marcus Smart, Dennis Schroder, Jayson Tatum, Robert Williams III, Al Horford
Celtics injury report: Brodric Thomas (two-way), Jaylen Brown (OUT - hamstring strain)
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
Closing Out Strong. It’s wild watching opposing teams try to adjust their offense when running into two fluid Sequoia trees planted in the lane. And with the welcome return of pesky wing-man Isaac Okoro, the Cavs have the resources available to put on the pressure. Wear-you-down mentality is the standard fare in Cleveland, served warm by its youth. But with experience lacking, the young guys have brushed shoulders with a few late-game collapses that have cost them wins. To secure a victory tonight — as Sexton is again sidelined — the Cavs will have to finish the game mistake-free by closing out on defense, taking care of the basketball and running poised and workable plays down the stretch.
Glass Game. Jarrett Allen and Even Mobley will have their hands full down low battling Horford and Williams on the glass. Allen is pulling down a remarkable 11.5 rebounds per game — but at his heels are Al Horford (9), Robert Williams III (8.8) and Jayson Tatum (8.6). Cleveland does best when they excel pulling down the offensive boards, going 6-1 when they collect more than 10 per game. Mobley will have to use his body tonight in an effort to keep Horford and Williams out of the paint.
Battle on D. Boston is coming into their own defensively, holding teams to under 90 points in 3 of their last 5 games. (Not including their overtime victory from Friday.) Horford sits second on the leaderboard for blocks at 2.4 per game, while Marcus Smart snatches 2.3 steals per game, good for fourth in the league. Darius Garland, rocking a 20.4% turnover percentage this season, must take care of the ball tonight against the Celtics defense. It’s possible that the matchup will likely be decided by Okoro’s ability to close out late on Tatum, Boston’s major offensive threat. Should be another fun one.