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What to watch for in Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics

Two of the best in the Eastern Conference face off in Beantown

NBA: Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers, coming off a refreshing blowout victory against the pesky Toronto Raptors, will face a tougher test Wednesday night against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Cleveland is 2-0 versus Boston this season, with both games needing overtime to determine a victor.

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (39-25) versus Boston Celtics (44-18)

Where: TD Garden - Boston, MA

When: 7:30 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN, Bally Sports Ohio, NBCS-BOS

Spread: BOS -6.5

Opposing Blog: Celtics Blog

Cavs’ expected starting lineup: Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen

Cavs’ injury report: Mamadi Diakite (OUT - two-way), Isaiah Mobley (OUT - two-way), Dylan Windler (OUT - G League assignment(

Celtics’ expected starting lineup: Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Robert Williams

Celtics’ injury report: Danilo Gallinari (OUT - knee)

What to watch for

Controlling the Glass

Despite rolling with two bigs, the Cavs are 23rd in the league in rebounding while the Celtics, who also start two bigs, are 8th in the league. Robert Williams swallows up 13% of his own team’s missed shots, good for the 91st percentile per Cleaning the Glass. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Malcolm Brogdon are all good rebounders for their positions as well, in the 90th percentile or better in defensive rebounding per Cleaning the Glass. The Cavaliers actually won the rebounding battle in the first matchup against the Celtics and lost it by one board in the second, but neither of those contests had Williams healthy. Cleveland squeaked out wins against Boston previously, but control of the glass could swing things this time around.

Defense First

The Cavs have one of the league’s best defenses by just about every major metric, but that has eluded them over the last several games. Cleveland got punked early against Philadelphia, particularly from beyond the arc, allowed Denver to come back and were absolutely demolished by Atlanta. It was not until Toronto came to town that the Cavaliers exhibited some punch on the defensive end. Granted, the Raptors did not have Fred Van Vleet, but the Cavs made things difficult in the paint and held Toronto to 39% from the floor.

Boston has the third-best offense in the league, averages the fourth-most points per game, takes the second-most threes per game and has the eighth-best shooting percentage from beyond the arc. And yes, the Cavs are allowing teams to shoot 37.8% from three-point land overall and 42.9% with regard to corner threes per Cleaning the Glass. Both are 29th in the league. Defense wins games, playoff series, and championships. There will certainly be a playoff atmosphere on the road against the Celtics.

Evolving Evan Mobley

Evan Mobley has blossomed into not just a solid, but a really potent offensive player. The defense remains stout, but Mobley has shown some offensive moves. Against the Nuggets he exploded for 31 points, but small things like backing down and toughing it out through a lot of contact for a hook shot are signs of growth:

Or this, just casually euro-stepping on his way to a teardrop with extraordinarily soft touch for a player his size:

Forget the three-point shot-making right now (which is coming along, by the way), Mobley is making a difference on the offensive end by another means: just being better at dribbling the basketball. Boston has Al Horford and Williams, bigs who can defend, and smart guards like Brogdon, Brown, and Marcus Smart who can be pesky defensively. Mobley has demonstrated some success on offense in new ways, but those tools will be put to the test against a stingy Celtics defense. Perhaps getting Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell going frees things up for Mobley, as the Celtics defensive attention will have to be everywhere at once. But it will be intriguing to see Mobley against a smart Celtics defensive scheme.