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What to watch for in Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics

The Cavs will try to win the season series tonight against the Celtics.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers will look to avenge their 117-113 loss to the Boston Celtics last Wednesday. Boston thoroughly outplayed Cleveland in that contest as the final score wasn’t indicative of how that game went.

Worth noting for this game: The Celtics went into double overtime on Sunday against the New York Knicks and then flew immediately to Cleveland. It’s possible they rest many of their key guys and the Cavs have an opening to pick up a win here.

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (40-26) vs. Boston Celtics (45-20)

Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse - Cleveland, OH

When: 7 p.m. EST

TV: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports+, NBA League Pass

Spread: Cavs -8

Opposing Blog: Celtics Blog

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

Cavs’ injury report: Donovan Mitchell (QUESTIONABLE - finger), Mamadi Diakite (OUT - two-way), Isaiah Mobley (OUT - two-way)

Celtics’ expected starting lineup: Marcus Smart, Derick White, Jaylen Brown, Sam Hauser, Grant Williams

Celtics’ injury report: Al Horford (OUT - back), Jayson Tatum (OUT - knee), Malcolm Brogdon (OUT - ankle), Danilo Gallinari (OUT - ACL), Robert Williams III (OUT - hamstring), JD Davidson (OUT - two-way), Mfiondu Kabengele (OUT - two-way)

What to watch for

The three-point battle

The Celtics were able to get whatever they wanted from deep on Wednesday night. The Cavs were outscored by 18 points from beyond the arc as they went 10-32 (31.3%) with Cavaliers outside of Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell going just 1-11 from three.

The Cavs don’t have many good three-point shooting options outside of Garland and Mitchell. That’s something that isn’t going to change overnight. However, they can’t allow themselves to lose the battle that lopsidedly.

Cleveland has been a much better three-point shooting team at home as they are shooting 37.2% from distance at the FieldHouse compared with the 32.5% they’re shooting on the road. We’ll see if some home cooking will allow the Cavs to keep this gap more manageable.

Production from Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley

Allen and Mobley struggled to get anything going offensively against the switchy Boston defense on Wednesday. They combined for just 17 points on 8-20 shooting.

Boston’s outside shooting mitigates what the duo does best on the defensive end. Al Horford was able to make the Cavs pay for leaving him on the perimeter repeatedly in their last matchup. Not being able to make up for their size advantage on the other end makes it that much worse.

Boston is never going to be a matchup that Allen and Mobley are going to have a distinct advantage in. However, they do need to hold their own like they did in Clevelands’ two wins against Boston this fall where Allen had a double-double in both games and Mobley averaged for 17 points and 8.5 rebounds in both games.

Containing Jayson Tatum and Al Horford

In Wednesday’s matchup, the Cavs neither kept Tatum from getting inside the paint, nor kept Horford from getting clean looks from deep. As a result, Tatum finished with 41 points which included going 11-14 from the line.

Tatum vs. CLE 3.1.23

Meanwhile, Horford contributed 23 points on 6-8 shooting from deep. Three of which were assisted by Tatum.

Horford vs. CLE 3.1.23

The Cavs simply can’t get beat on both ends. They either need to keep Tatum from getting to the paint and line or live with Horford and company bombing from deep. Both can’t happen like they did last Wednesday.

Rest advantage

The Cavs will have have the rest advantage in this one. This will be the second time they’ve played since their loss last Wednesday to the Celtics. The one intervening game was a lopsided win against the Detroit Pistons where Mobley was the only starter to play over 30 minutes.

On the other end, this will be Boston’s third game since their last meeting. They played the previous night at home against the New York Knicks in a double overtime loss. Here is a quick rundown of how many minutes Boston’s key contributors played last night:

  • Jayson Tatum - 49 minutes
  • Jaylen Brown - 47 minutes
  • Al Horford - 46 minutes
  • Marcus Smart - 39 minutes
  • Grant Williams - 47 minutes

Back-to-backs in separate cities are tough for any team. They’re even worse when the second one is on the road and in these conditions.

The Cavs haven’t been playing good basketball since the All-Star break and they haven’t brought it recently against other top teams in the conference. This is an opportunity to turn that around and get the ship back on course.

Update: Jayson Tatum and Al Horford have both been ruled out of tonight’s game. The starting lineups have been updated to reflect this.