There will be at least 14 players missing tonight’s game due to covid health and safety protocols. Nevertheless, the tonight’s between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics will count in the standings the same as any other.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (19-12) vs. Boston Celtics (15-16)
Where: TD Garden — Boston, MA
When: 7:30 p.m. EST
TV: Bally Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass, Bally Sports App
Spread: Celtics - 6
Opposing blog: CelticsBlog
Expected Cavs starting lineup: Darius Garland / Ricky Rubio / Dean Wade / Lauri Markkanen / Tako Fall
Cavs injury report: Kevin Love (QUESTIONABLE - right foot soreness), Jarrett Allen (OUT - health and safety), Isaac Okoro (OUT - health and safety), Evan Mobley (OUT - health and safety), Ed Davis (OUT - health and safety), Lamar Stevens (OUT - health and safety), Denzel Valentine (AVAILABLE - health and safety), Dylan Windler (OUT - health and safety), RJ Nembhard Jr. (OUT - health and safety), Collin Sexton (OUT - meniscus)
Expected Celtics starting lineup: Dennis Schröder / Marcus Smart / Jaylen Brown / Jayson Tatum / Enes Freedom
Celtics injury report: Al Horford (OUT - health and safety), Josh Richardson (OUT - health and safety), Brodric Thomas (OUT - health and safety), Grant Williams (OUT - health and safety), Jabari Parker (OUT - health and safety), Juancho Hernangomez (OUT - health and safety), Sam Houser (OUT - health and safety)
Three things to watch
The Cavs outside shooting. The Cavs miraculous still have their top five three-point shooters in terms of volume available tonight and I expect them to use that to their advantage. The Cavs will likely spread the floor and run mostly lineups with four or five shooters in an attempt to create driving lanes for Rubio and Garland.
Cleveland has quietly climbed to 9th in the league in three-point percentage (36%) thanks to their recent stretch of hot shooting. They’re shooting 41.3% from distance during their current six game winning streak. They will need those numbers to continue in order to keep this one close.
Love vs. Freedom. Love will likely spend the majority of his time at center tonight which is something he hasn’t done much this season. He is playing just 12% of his minutes at center this year which is his second lowest since coming to Cleveland according to basketball-reference.
The Celtics are also thin in the front court and will be forced to give notoriously bad defender Enes Freedom heavy minutes. Boston has given up 112.8 points per 100 possessions with Freedom on the court in place of Horford and Williams in their last three games.
A game featuring heavy doses Love and Freedom at center isn’t going to feature much defense. This matchup and game could come down to which center can give the most offensively while providing nominal support defensively.
Containing Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The Celtics have looked like a more functional team with Brown back in the lineup the last four games despite going 2-2 during that stretch. Brown has picked up right where he left off and has averaged 23 points on 41.7% shooting from three since returning to the lineup.
Brown’s return seems to have lifted Tatum’s game as well. Tatum is playing some of his best basketball this season and is averaging 27.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists since Brown’s return.
The Cavs will need to somewhat contain these two proficient scorers despite having only three rotation wings left on the roster. It could be a long night if either or both of these guys get going offensively.