Boston Celtics (12-4) vs
Cleveland Cavaliers (7-9)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
7:00 PM EST
Nobody is looking ahead to Thursday and everyone is focused on tonight’s game against the Celtics, right? I hope not. While it’s easy to understand the anticipation with Thursday’s homecoming game looming, this game tonight is still a big game for the Cavaliers. Sure, the Cavs are no longer the title contenders of years past, but any time you have a chance to try to beat the Celtics you should embrace how much fun it is. The Cavs-Celtics is by no means a major rivalry, but these two franchises do have a bit of a history with one another including some memorable playoff matches and it’s still a game I want the Cavs to win just a little more than most games. So for the rest of the evening, put LeBron and the Heat out of your minds and gear up for what will hopefully be another fun and exciting matchup with the Eastern Conference’s premier team.
Here we are, a month into the season and things haven’t gone quite as well as some had hoped in the wake of that emotional opening win over Boston. The Cavs offense has been slowly and steadily digging deeper and deeper toward the cellar. Tonight they face the Celtics, who come in boasting the NBA’s best defense. What happens when the league’s 3rd worst offense takes on the league’s best offense? It’s usually not pretty.
And hey, this game probably will be a blow out loss for the Cavaliers. Just look at those numbers and efficiency ratings for the Celtics starters above. The last time around, the Celtics overlooked the Cavaliers and were coming off an emotional win of their own the night before against Miami. This time around, the Cavs won’t be as fortunate.
Tonight, the Celtics come into this game fresh off a nice 4 day break since their last game, Friday at home against the Raptors. And there’s no way the Celtics are going to overlook the Cavaliers this time around. The Cavs have the Celtics’ attention, and Boston will certainly make this game much more difficult than the first. Or, at least, that’s what it says on paper.
So how can the Cavaliers win this game? The big advantage for the Cavs is in bench play. The Celtics are down 3 men (well, ok, 2.5 if you only want to count a washed up Jermaine O’Neal as a half) due to injury and their bench is painfully short as it is. The Cavaliers must, must, must use their depth and youth to try to wear down the Boston starters. And when Boston does go to their bench, the Cavaliers reserves who have been so reliable all year absolutely must take it to Boston as much as they possibly can. Focus on efficiency, ball movement, limiting turnovers, and pushing the pace whenever possible. Boston may have the NBA’s best transition defense, but the Cavaliers still have to push the ball against them whenever possible.
Beyond just fastbreak points, though, the Cavaliers need to push the ball just to keep the pressure on Boston’s defense. This is where having Mo Williams in the lineup this time around really helps. The Cavaliers may not play at a lightning fast pace in terms of Pace Factor, but Mo Williams has been excellent for most of the season at pushing the tempo and getting the Cavaliers into their offense quickly. This forces the defense to constantly hustle back and not let up at all and not jog back too often. Eventually, the Cavaliers have been able to wear down some defenses this way.
If this game turns into a half court slugfest the way the Celtics like it, the Cavaliers will get slaughtered. I’m convinced of that much. However, if the Cavaliers can pick their spots and impose their pace on the Celtics just a little bit, it may pay off down the stretch and the Cavs key bench guys can help push the Cavaliers to another stunning win over the Celtics. It won’t be easy, but it sure will be fun to watch.