Cavaliers Preview Game #61: Cavs at Celtics

Cavaliers vs CelticsCleveland Cavaliers (48-12) vs
Boston Celtics (48-14)
TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA
Friday, March 6, 2009
8:00 PM EST

In a game of this magnitude, writing an introduction to this preview feels a little superfluous. After all, I think it’s safe to assume most of you know what this game means and what’s on the line here. As far as the Cavaliers real rivalries go, this one is my favorite. I enjoy watching Cavs-Celtics games far more than I do Cavs-Pistons game, and I won’t even consider the fake Wizards rivalry that Washington fans try shoving down our throats. There’s just something special about LeBron James and Paul Pierce going at each other all game long. These two guys absolutely love playing one another and they always seem to bring out the best in their opponent. That’s what a real rivalry is about. The Cavs will never be able to take the place of the Lakers in the Celtics’ fans hearts, nor should they. That rivalry is a great, historic rivalry and is a part of the NBA’s fabric. But this will be the 14th time the Cavs and Celtics have played one another in the last 2 seasons (counting postseason…it’s their 17th matchup if you count preseason), and when you play another team that many times, and when the series is split exactly along home court lines, it means that the games have primarily been emotional roller coaster rides and fierce battles to the finish. Seriously, as a Cleveland sports fan, how does it get any better than this? Friday night, prime time, ESPN battle between the two best teams in the East!   

Projected Starting Lineups

Cleveland Cavaliers:

-G Mo Williams (17.7 ppg, 4.1 apg, 0.9 spg, 17.46 PER)
-G Delonte West (12.4 ppg, 3.5 apg, .415 3P%, 15.87 PER)
-F LeBron James (28.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 7.0 apg, 31.77 PER)
-F Anderson Varejao (8.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 14.18 PER)
-C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (13.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 19.29 PER)

Key Reserves: Daniel Gibson, Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith, Sasha Pavlovic, JJ Hickson

Injuries: Ben Wallace (out), Eric Snow (out)

Boston Celtics:

-G Rajon Rondo (11.7 ppg, 8.4 apg, 1.9 spg, 19.14 PER)
-G Ray Allen (18.2 ppg, 2.8 apg, .410 3P%, 17.80 PER)
-F Paul Pierce (20.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.7 apg, 18.04 PER)
-F Glen Davis (5.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 0.3 bpg, 9.76 PER)
-C Kendrick Perkins (8.0 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 13.03 PER)

Key Reserves: Eddie House, Leon Powe, Stephon Marbury, Mikki Moore, Gabe Pruitt

Injuries: Kevin Garnett (out), Tony Allen (out), Brian Scalabrine (out)

Team Efficiency Statistics

Cleveland Cavaliers:

-Off (100.0 ppg, 41.7 rpg, .469 FG%, .755 FT%, 20.0 apg, Eff-109.4, Rank-4)
-Def (90.3 ppg, 38.7 rpg, .427 FG%, Eff-98.2, Rank-1)

Boston Celtics:

-Off (101.7 ppg, 42.5 rpg, .487 FG%, .772 FT%, 22.8 apg, Eff-108.5, Rank-5)
-Def (92.6 ppg, 36.9 rpg, .428 FG%, Eff-98.4, Rank-2)

Previous Matchups

  1. Cleveland 85 at Boston 90 – 10/28/08 [box]
  2. Boston 83 at Cleveland 98 – 01/09/09 [box]

Game Notes

Boston will be without KG in this game, Cleveland will be without Ben Wallace. Advantage Cleveland. Boston has added Mikki Moore and Stephon Marbury, Cleveland has added Joe Smith. Advantage Cleveland (at least I think….Marbury is still the wild card). This game is being played in Boston. HUGE advantage Boston. Boston is 2-2 in games they are favored by 0 to 3.5 points. Cleveland is 4-1 in games in which they are 0.5 to 3.5 underdogs. Advantage Cleveland?

This game has so many story lines in it, as these two teams fiercely battle for the top spot in the East. With a win tonight, Cleveland can open a 2 game lead in the Conference, which would be huge. No two teams in NBA history have ever played each other when both teams had at least a 17 game lead in their division….until tonight. Cleveland and Boston each hold 17.5 game leads. Back in January, the Cavaliers beat Boston in Cleveland without Big Z. Tonight the Celtics will try to beat Cleveland in Boston without KG.

Throughout all the cool and interesting storylines, though, this game still comes down to the matchups. As usual, Mo Williams will probably start out defending Rajon Rondo, but if Rondo gets going in anyway, the Cavs will be quick to slide Delonte over on him to cut him off at the point of attack. If you can stop Rondo from slicing through the perimeter defense, you have a good chance of beating the Celtics. Unfortunately for Cleveland, that’s easier said than done. In January’s matchup, though, it was the adjustment of putting West on Rondo that made the difference in that game. West hounded Rondo all night and made everything difficult on the young PG.

Then there’s the LeBron vs Pierce matchup. I say this probably every single time I preview the Cavs and Celtics, but LeBron’s biggest rival in the entire NBA isn’t Kobe or Wade or Melo….rather, his biggest rival is Paul Pierce. These two guys go at each other harder than any other matchup for LeBron. Pierce is just about the closest thing LeBron has to a true peer at the SF position. Pierce makes LeBron work for everything, and visa versa. It seems like a lot of times these two guys square off they end up kind of cancelling each other out a bit, but when the Cavaliers beat the Celtics, it’s usually in games in which LeBron does a good job of limiting Pierce to under 20-25 points.

Finally, there’s the rebounding matchup. The Celtics not having Garnett and the Cavaliers adding Joe Smith both work well for the Cavs in the frontcourt, but there’s just something about Leon Powe and Glen Davis… of those two always seems to step up and just kill the Cavs on the boards. With Z back and with Joe Smith coming off the bench, keep an eye on the Cavaliers rebounding numbers tonight. If the Cavaliers get back to rebounding at levels close to last season, combined with their improved offensive and defensive play, the Cavaliers have a chance to be even more difficult to stop.

Beating the Celtics tonight would be huge, but it doesn’t clinch anything. The Cavaliers’ 3rd to last game this year is at home on Sunday, April 12th at 3:30 pm on ABC. If you think tonight’s game is huge, just think how big that game has the potential to be. A win tonight could go a long way toward making that April 12th game a must-win game for the Celtics rather than a must-win game for the Cavaliers.

Vegas Line

Boston –1.5
Over/Under 185.5

From The Outside Looking In

Celtics Hub
Hardwood Houdini
Red’s Army
Sports Of Boston

Next Game For The Cavaliers

Saturday, March 7, 2009
7:30 PM
Miami Heat at Cleveland Cavaliers

  • IRB?

    I’m amazed by the fact that although LeBron and Pierce tend to cancel each other out sometimes, LeBron’s PER is insanely higher than Pierce.

    Also, any time Glen Davis is in your starting line-up, you’re in trouble.

  • Tron

    This is going to be a great game, I’m so glad my girlfriend is working tonight!

  • Jacob Rosen

    Huge game! Can’t wait to see what happens. The home team has won the last 14 battles between these two teams, FYI. A win here would tie us with the Lakers (temporarily since they play the T’Wolves at 10:30) and would give us a huge leg up on the Celtics for the #1 seed.

  • Jay

    I have a very good feeling about the game tonight. I think without KG, the Celtics won’t be able to hang for 4 quarters. It’s time to GET PUMPED!!! Go Cavs!!!

  • ryan

    i will be so miserabley disapointed if we lose this one with the absence of KG

  • JD

    Since they’re without KG, the Celtics have to push the ball. Rondo has to ultra aggressive tonight, and keep the Cavs from getting set in their half court defense. For the Cavs, its just the opposite. They need to slow down the tempo, not let the crowd get into it, and run their sets. If its a high scoring affair, Boston wins, if its low scoring, Cleveland wins.

  • Eli

    I will be watching for us getting some Offensive Fouls on Rondo to cut his minutes since our bigs will have a little more freedom without KG to worry about. If we can get 3 fouls on him by the second quarter, that would be clutch.

  • MaimLarry

    Some of the guys over at Celtics Blog are already saying that the officiating will lose the game for the Celtics. Wow. Officiating becomes more and more of an excuse every day.

  • Scott

    Especially before the game even starts… How petty.

  • JJ from Alaska

    Anybody have an over/under on Joe Smith’s minutes tonight?

    I honestly don’t think it can be more than 12. 15 if he’s lucky…

  • DCBucks

    Cavs bench is getting killed. Looks like every good team has figured out you can just out muscle us inside.

  • ryan

    the celtics are doing whatever they want in the paint

  • Hoy

    @DC, Brown was running a small line up for quite awhile and I’m not sure why, I figure’d he would try to keep Andy or Z on the court all night to prevent that. But I agree playing Joe Smith at the center his first night back with us is a tough call and Little Baby and Perkins were banging us around

    Other thoughts now that its halftime

    -why for the love of all thats holy is Gibson even on the court? he can’t knock anything down for about a month now, hes not a defensive player, so whats he bringing to the table? Those minutes should be going to Pavs and TK right now, they both play better D and can easily bring more offense than Gibson at this point (hopefully i eat these words in the second half and Gibson goes off)

    -earlier comment, why the small line up for so long? we’re getting killed in the paint

    -more movement on offense, they’re rotating and doubling very quick, we need to move the ball quicker to get around that, also establishing Z inside would help loosen up the perimeter

    -PBR is delicious (hopefully this continues through the second half)

  • deep13

    We’re lucky to be within 2.. but we are. Hopefully we don’t get killed in the 3rd, per the usual.

  • Rick

    The Cavs were out-hustled that half. And no, I have no idea why Wally was asked to play the 4 so long. But they came back and cut it to 2, and that was huge. Here’s hoping the outside shots start falling a little bit more, and the Cavs remember to get in REBOUNDING POSITION. That would be nice.

  • Hoy

    what’re the odds that Little Baby gets a flagrant 2 when he mistakes Wally for a Chicken McNugget and takes a bit out of his shoulder?

  • DCBucks

    3rd quarter will hurt as usual

  • Hoy

    so he didn’t try to eat wally, he tried to decapitate andy, same end result

  • DCBucks

    how can they have rondo injured, davis out, and garnett out, but we’re down by 7 and having another awful 3rd quarter. weak.

  • DCBucks

    just awful 3rd quarter. no offensive movement at all. defense is no where to be seen. awful.

  • DCBucks

    is there a lid on our basket. unreal.

  • Hoy

    everytime we miss a free throw, god kills a puppy, PETA is filing a formal complaint against the cavs

    @DC, I feel your pain

  • DCBucks

    they left their A B and C games in Cleveland. no energy at all, you’d think we were playing the wizards for last place instead of the conference lead.

  • DCBucks

    does everyone still want to vote cleveland’s bench over boston’s?


    LeBron has been pounding the ball into the floor in the last month like it’s the year 2006. That works against the lesser teams, but it’s also a huge reason why they’ve lost to the Lakers twice, Orlando, Houston and now Boston.

  • Mark

    Normally I like this blog. You guys generally have decent opinions. But the fact that most of you maintain that Mike Brown is a good coach is just vomit-inducing. He is horrible. Out-coached again. The ENTIRE second half LBJ half guarded Pierce, gingerly switching every time Perkins or Powe presented a half-hearted screen. And Pierce would just waltz around and create offense, blowing by Z or shooting over Mo/Delonte. Oh, and to not use Sasha to play Pierce when Lebron sat…Wally? Really? He is still playing? You are having him guard Pierce? Lebron sucked. Didn’t even attempt to guard Pierce in the second half. Barry was right…tuck your damn elbow in. Mike Brown is stupid. If Lebron would just guard Pierce, there would be no double teams, no open paint, no dribble drives that force out big men to commit.

    Mike Brown is stupid–face it.

  • CLEVFan

    They are now 1-5 against Boston, Orlando and the LA Lakers!


    Mark, I think he got outcoached tonight, but I thought he outcoached Doc the last time they played. That happens in the league. But Brown is still one of the top coaches in this league. His focus on defense (along with LeBron) are why they are where they are.

  • Ryan S

    outcoached.. maybe. though.. can’t fault mike brown for missed free throws and no offensive movement (you heard him on “wired” yell at guys to get more offensive movement)

    it was fault of motivation. no one wanted it. scary lapse seeing as this is the one team we know we are going to have to beat to get back to the finals. not healthy.

    either way.. im in college outside of the FSN ohio zone and had to watch on espn and listen to the WORST commentating i’ve ever heard. nearly muted the whole second half. sure it was quite a one-sided game but WOW was that just blatantly obvious.

    i can’t understand hubie brown.. maybe he should take bostons **** out of his mouth and repeat himself.

  • Mark

    Wasn’t Lebron’s lack of energy overwhelmingly disheartening? Damn. May as well have been watching the Browns offense.

    The most frightening part: when Lebron goes up against high-profile guys in size range (e.g. Artest and Pierce) he disappears. He gets scared. One easy high screen and Pierce blows by LBJ and the screen…hits a shot or makes a pass. LBJ didn’t even try to get past Pierce. Did you watch the pregame? Pierce: “He’s bigger than me; he’s faster than me; he jumps higher than I do.” Where was that? Why are we switching that pick without an effort to get through the screen? Why didn’t Lebron take on the challenge? How can he not try to get to the rim once?

    This team just refuses to TAKE anything.

  • CLEVFan

    In the games against Boston, Orlando and the LA Lakers, Lebron James has shot 38% from the field, while attempting 70 of his 130 shots from outside of 18 ft.

  • Lyon

    @#29: Agree with you wholeheartedly. LBJ had no energy at all, you could tell it in his actions after he missed that dunk. Didn’t seem like he played very hard.

    Also agree on your statements about how we handled the pick on Pierce. LBJ seemingly wanted to switch everytime, even with Z. LBJ needs to realize that if he’s going to guard the other teams guy, then he needs to do it 100%. I’d rather have someone else go at Pierce than have LBJ go out there 60% on him.

    Huge game Saturday, got to get back to winning basketball.

  • IRB?

    Listless. They said it was a statement game, we said it beforehand. What happened to that, or did you really dismiss the stuff that ESPN told you to say?

  • JJ from AK

    I honestly think that the Cavs went in thinking they had this game won. “No KG, no problem.” Does anyone think that this was maybe a situation where Cleveland really just knew how to play against a Celtics team that had KG on the court and not the KG-less version? It almost looked like it at times with some of the substitutions and lineups on the court. You would think the Cavs would have watched more film to prepare themselves to see how the C’s play without KG.

    About the commentating, everytime i listen to an ESPN/ABC broadcast the Cavs are on that Hubie Brown is on i wish he was the Cavs coach. The guy made the Grizzlies a team to watch for crying out loud. Hubie knows the game and isn’t a screeching little girl like Van Gundy when he calls a game (sorry Jeff, great knowledge, sorry mic skills). The only thing that gets Hubie in trouble is that he tends to over exaggerate with the team in the lead. Trust me, he’s shown signs of being a Cavalier and LeBron fanboy on multiple broadcasts.

  • Mark

    This obviously sounds paranoid every time someone actually writes it: but don’t these kinds of games make you think the NBA is rigged…just a little? Is it really possible that Bron came out with such little spunk and fire? Is it really possible that they just choked this away that hard?

    The answer: yes. But it just makes you wonder if Stern & Co. wanted to keep one more race tight this side of the Mississippi.

  • IRB?

    Mark, are you saying the NBA is the new WWF?

  • Mark

    Mostly just venting…and trying, though irrationally, to locate any sort of rationale for seemingly irrational play. But it’s just rationalizing. You just never want to believe the team (especially Bron) would back down like that.

    Still, we know for a fact certain games were fixed. And we’ve all seen how Stern feels about Lebron staying in Cleveland.

    Just saying, it makes one uneasy…

  • brix34

    Z. What a liability on defense. Love coach browns d but should contemplate not switching on picks with lebrons d assignment.