Cleveland Cavaliers (0-0) vs
Boston Celtics (0-0)
TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
8:00 PM EST
Welcome back! It feels amazing to be previewing an actual, real NBA game again, and I couldn’t be more excited about the Cavaliers this year. It won’t be easy sailing to start, though, as the Cavaliers have a primetime rematch with the defending NBA Champions, the Boston Celtics. The Cavaliers split 4 grueling matchups in the regular season last year with the Celtics, and then they played a tough, physical, draining 7 game series with the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semi’s. Two more games in the preseason, and now they kick off the regular season against each other. These teams know each other VERY well, despite the fact that both of these rosters are fairly new rosters. LeBron vs Paul Pierce is my favorite matchup to watch in the entire NBA because Pierce is the only SF in the Association who matches up well with LeBron. These 2 guys love going at one another, and I sure do love watching it. The Celtics might be the better team, but I welcome the challenge every time.
Projected Starting Lineups
-G Mo Williams (17.2 ppg, 6.3 apg, 1.2 spg, 17.23 PER)
-G Delonte West (8.3 ppg, 2.8 apg, .356 3P%, 12.13 PER)
-F LeBron James (30.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.2 apg, 29.15 PER)
-F Ben Wallace (4.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 12.00 PER)
-C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (14.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 18.65 PER)
Key Injuries: Eric Snow (out), Darnell Jackson (out)
-G Rajon Rondo (10.6 ppg, 5.1 apg, 1.7 spg, 15.74 PER)
-G Ray Allen (17.4 ppg, 3.1 apg, .398 3P%, 16.60 PER)
-F Paul Pierce (19.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.5 apg, 19.85 PER)
-F Kevin Garnett (18.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 25.42 PER)
-C Kendrick Perkins (6.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 13.38 PER)
Key Injuries: none
Team Efficiency Stats (2007-08 Season Stats)
-Off (96.4 ppg, 44.6 rpg, .439 FG%, .717 FT%, 20.0 apg)
-Def (96.7 ppg, 40.4 rpg, .455 FG%)
-Off (100.5 ppg, 42.0 rpg, .475 FG%, .771 FT%, 22.4 apg)
-Def (90.3 ppg, 38.9 rpg, .419 FG%)
You can’t help but kind of wish this game was at home. Over the past four seasons the Cavaliers have the 5th best record at home in the NBA. The Cavs have not fared quite as well on the road over that span, going 70-94 away from the Q, good for the 10th best road record. Meanwhile, the Celtics were the 2nd most dominant home team last year, and tonight they will look to pick up where they left off. The evening will start with the Celtics’ ring ceremony where they will celebrate their NBA Championship before they begin their defense of it. The Cavaliers challenge will be to get that campaign off to a tough start.
For the Celtics, you know what they’re going to do to you. They’re going to try loading up on LeBron on defense and forcing other people to beat them. On offense they will try to get Garnett going early before Paul Pierce takes the game over. The big matchup in this one will be Mo Williams on Rajon Rondo. Last year, Rondo killed the Cavaliers when he was aggressive taking the ball to the hole and creating from the lane. Guys like Daniel Gibson and Damon Jones had no chance of staying in front of Rondo, and that was a big key to the Celtics eventually victory in the series (along with Paul Pierce’s superhuman efforts, of course). Keep an eye early on Mo’s defense on Rondo. It will tell us an awful lot about what we can expect out of Mo defensively this year. If he can at least slow down and contain Rondo a little bit, it will make a huge difference for the Cavaliers.
For the Cavaliers, on offense, I want to see what happens if the Cavaliers can pressure the Celtics defense. No more letting them dictate the action on that end of the floor, it’s time to push the ball and be aggressive early and often. The Atlanta Hawks nearly knocked the Celtics off in the first round with this method. Now, the Cavaliers are most definitely not the Atlanta Hawks and they can’t play the same way, but adding some elements of that style to the Cavaliers defense, which is a huge step up from Atlanta’s defense can be one way for the Cavaliers to get a bit of an edge. I will be looking to see how and where Mo Williams gets his shots from. Hopefully he can involve LeBron and Z in some pick and rolls.
The Cavaliers are one of the best rebounding teams, but the Celtics are excellent on the boards as well. Whichever team controls the glass could control this game. In the preseason alone the Cavs outrebounded their opponenets on the offensive glass by a 71-38 margin. In fact, last season, the Cavaliers were first in the NBA in offensive rebounds per game, at 13.3 rebounds, and they turned those rebounds into 15.3 second-chance points, also tops in the NBA. In the regular season last year, only once in the matchups between these two teams did the team who won the game also lose the rebounding margin (game 4 the Celtics beat the Cavaliers despite being out-rebounded 44-37). In their postseason matchup, all 7 games were won by the team who won the battle of the boards. When these two teams square off, nothing is more important than rebounding and second chance points because these teams are so evenly matched against one another. Assists, Turnovers, and Rebounders will tell you the story of who wins this game more so than individual scoring marks.
From The Outside Looking In
Thursday, October 30, 2008
7:00 PM EST
Charlotte Bobcats vs Cleveland Cavaliers