Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse - Cleveland, OH
When: 7:30 pm EST
TV: ESPN, Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports+
Opposing blog: Celtics Blog
Expected Cleveland starting lineup: Darius Garland / Donovan Mitchell / Caris LeVert / Evan Mobley / Jarrett Allen
Cavs injury report: Darius Garland (QUESTIONABLE - eye), Dylan Windler (QUESTIONABLE - ankle), Raul Neto (DOUBTFUL - ankle), Ricky Rubio (OUT - ACL), Isaiah Mobley (OUT - G League assignment)
Expected Celtics starting lineup: Marcus Smart / Derrick White / Jaylen Brown / Jayson Tatum / Al Horford
Celtics injury report: Robert Williams (OUT - knee), Danilo Gallinari (OUT - knee), JD Davison (OUT - G League assignment), Mfiondu Kabengele (OUT - G League assignment)
What to watch for
Statement game. The Cavs picked up one of their most memorable wins of last season by coming back from a 19-point deficit to defeat the Celtics. Boston got their revenge two nights later with a 98-92 win while holding the Cavs to just 38.6% shooting from the floor.
That win last season felt like an announcement that the Cavs weren’t going to be the perennial doormats they had been in previous seasons. Their loss a few nights later was a reality check that they still had a ways to go before they could be legitimate Eastern Conference contenders.
Similarly, the overtime win on Friday felt like a statement that the Cavs want to be viewed as contenders this season. We’ll see if the Cavs can follow up on that win in a way they weren’t able to do last season in front of a national audience.
Attacking the paint. The Cavs did a great job of finishing at the rim against the Celtics in last week’s win. They converted a remarkable 85.7% of their attempts in the restricted area on Friday night which led to 48 points in the paint. That said, the Cavs struggled to get to the rim as only 23.8% of their field goal attempts came within the restricted area which is in the 9th percentile among NBA games this season.
The Celtics’ interior defense isn’t as good as it was last season with Robert Williams sidelined. That said, they still do a good job of taking away three-point opportunities (3rd fewest three-point attempts against) and looks at the rim (5th fewest opponent field-goal attempts at the rim). The Cavs didn’t do a great job on Friday of generating looks at either place compared to their season averages, but they did convert the opportunities they had while getting to the line for 34 free-throw attempts.
The Cavs will need to be as opportunistic tonight if they want to repeat Friday’s outcome.
Defending the three-point line. The Cavs’ defense is based on running opponents off the three-point line and funneling them to their bigs. This has resulted in the Cavs allowing the 4th lowest percentage of three-point attempts this season.
Cleveland didn’t do a good job of running Boston’s shooters off the line on Friday night as they were able to put up 33 three-pointers which accounted for 37.5% of their shot attempts. This was the only time this season a Cavalier opponent attempted more than 32% of their shots from beyond the arc.
Boston is the third best three-point shooting team this season (39.9%). The Cavs will need to do a better job of limiting their opportunities from deep if they want to contain Boston’s offense.
Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell has put on a show every game he’s played this season. His 41-point performance in TD Garden was no exception. There’s no better way to ingratiate yourself to this fanbase than by doing that to their long-time rival.
Mitchell was able to do this by finishing all seven of his looks around the rim and knocking down five of his nine three-point attempts.
Mitchell made the most of his opportunities in high efficiency spots, but the Celtics defense did force him into nine midrange shots which resulted in just six points.
The Celtics will try their best to keep Mitchell from getting looks behind the arc and at the rim. We’ll see if Mitchell is able to get to his spots and whether he’s able to execute once getting there.
Darius Garland’s possible return. Garland is expected to make his long awaited return to the lineup tonight. The all-star point guard was arguably the Cavs’ best player last season and was poised for a breakout season after showing good chemistry with Mitchell during the preseason. Unfortunately, we never truly got an idea of how the duo would play together in the regular season as they were only able to share the floor for six minutes against the Toronto Raptors before Garland’s exit.
The Cavs have gotten off to a fast start without him. Getting him back into the lineup will be an adjustment and the Celtics’ defense isn’t the easiest team to be thrown back into the water against.
That said, it’ll be fun to have Garland back out there tonight. We’ll see what kind of impact he can make.