It’s St. Patrick’s day, and this year, the Cleveland Cavaliers will partake in a time-honored tradition: running around with a bunch of fake Irish dudes in green clothes and NBA jerseys. The Boston Celtics are in Cleveland tonight! Both teams are coming off losses last night; the Cavs got crushed on the road by the Miami Heat, while the Celtics fell at home the Utah Jazz.
When last these two teams played, it went...suboptimally for the Cavs. The Celtics walloped the Cavs by 38(!!!), with no Cavalier scoring more than Collin Sexton’s 13 points. You might consider that the point when the bus started rolling toward the cliff; the game kicked off a 2–14 stretch that derailed the Cavs’ season. On the bright side, things have to go better this time around!
How to watch:
Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on Fox Sports Ohio, Fox Sports Go and NBA League Pass
As far as we know, the Cavaliers will run the same starting five as last night. But this lineup might not tenable in the long-term; Jackson Flickinger pointed out that, in limited burn, the Larry Nance Jr./Jarrett Allen pairing has been abysmal since the break. That’s something to keep an eye on.
The Celtics have four of their regular starters, with Semi Ojeleye rounding out the first unit while Marcus Smart works himself back into the lineup from a calf injury.
Another programming note of interest to Cavaliers fans: Although he isn’t a starter, Tristan Thompson has entered the health and safety protocol, meaning his first game back in Cleveland will have to wait. Reminder: stay safe out there!
Cavs: Darius Garland / Collin Sexton / Isaac Okoro / Larry Nance Jr. / Jarrett Allen
Celtics: Kemba Walker / Semi Ojeleye / Jaylen Brown / Jayson Tatum / Daniel Theis
Things to watch for:
I vs. the J’s: Does the NBA have rules against hazing? If so, they should really investigate Jaylen Brown for how he treated Isaac Okoro when these teams met back in January. Brown abused the rook on his way to 33 points on 13-of-20 shooting, while Okoro only mustered up 6 points and finished a mind-numbing minus-39. (Jayson Tatum missed the game as he went through health and safety protocols.) Brown and Tatum are good for almost 50 points every night, and Okoro will likely spend most of his court time checking one of those two. Holding either of them under control would drastically increase Cleveland’s chances of winning.
Hammering the weak spot: If you need to lock down the perimeter, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better defender than Marcus Smart. But there’s a tiny puncture in his otherwise airtight resumé: Smart is prone to foul trouble. That points to a larger theme in Boston; the Celtics give up 23.4 free throw attempts per game, eighth-most in the NBA. And that’s not it—they also give up the eighth-most points in the paint! All of this bodes well for Collin Sexton, who relentlessly attacks defenses and has quietly turned himself into one of the best foul-drawing guards in the league this year. Sexton will have to be his usual, aggressive self and tear open the C’s defense for the rest of his teammates.
Paltry passing: The Cavaliers’ offense was abysmal last week. There are many ways to illustrate that, whether you choose consecutive 82-point games, two points in a seven-minute stretch against the Atlanta Hawks, and a nine-point quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans are only a few. One problem might be stagnation. The Cavs only tossed 13 assists without Darius Garland against the Pels, but that number went up to (a still-bad) 19 against the Hawks, seven of which came from Garland. The Cavaliers don’t have any legit distributors outside Garland, so he’ll have to make a point to take charge of the offense, especially when Sexton is resting.