Preview by Jack Simone, CLNS Media
After crumbling last night to the Heat, 129-121, the Celtics (35-34, 32-37 ATS) are bound for the play-in tournament unless they win out and the Knicks lose out. They take on the Cavaliers (21-48, 25-44 ATS) tonight at 8 p.m. EST, where a win could guarantee them no lower than the seven seed.
According to the online sports book Betonline.ag, the Celtics are 6.0 point favorites.
- Point Spread: Celtics -6
- Over-Under: 219 points
- Money line: Celtics -240, Cavaliers +200
Cleveland features lengthy injury report, with seven players out and one questionable. Garland (ankle), Lamar Stevens (concussion), Isaiah Hartenstein (concussion), Larry Nance Jr. (thumb), Matthew Dellavedova (neck), Taurean Prince (ankle), and Dylan Windler (knee) are all out. Cedi Osman is questionable with an ankle injury.
The Cavs are 21-48 this season and sit at 14th in the Eastern Conference. They are currently on an eleven game losing streak, the longest in the NBA.
The Celtics will be without Jaylen Brown, as he is out for the remainder of the year and will undergo surgery to repair a torn ligament in his wrist. Robert Williams (turf toe), Kemba Walker (injury management) and Marcus Smart (calf) are all out as well.
Boston dropped three games in a row and seven of their last ten entering tonight. They are 35-34 on the year, good for seventh in the Eastern Conference. A win tonight ensures that they don’t fall below that mark this season.
Predicted Starting Lineups
G: Payton Pritchard
G: Evan Fournier
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Semi Ojeleye
C: Tristan Thompson
G: Collin Sexton
G: Damyean Dotson
SF: Isaac Okoro
PF: Dean Wade
C: Jarrett Allen
Collin Sexton is the Cavs’ leading scorer, averaging 24.4 points per game. Jarrett Allen is the top rebounder on the squad, averaging 9.8 rebounds to go along with 13.3 PPG. Darius Garland leads the group in asssits, dishing out 6.2 a night while also putting up 17.7 points. Kevin Love (11.5), Cedi Osman (10.4), and Taurean Prince (10.1) round out the team’s double-digit scorers.
Kemba Walker had been leading the Celtics lately, averaging 29.8 points in the last five games. Jayson Tatum (26.2) and Evan Fournier (21.2) are also putting up 20+ PPG over that stretch. Nobody else on the team is averaging in double-figures over the last five games.
With four of Boston’s usual starters out, everyone’s eyes will be on Tatum, including the opposing team. This season, the Celtics rank 23rd in assists per game. If they want a chance at a win tonight, ball movement has to be the main focus on offense. Tatum will not be able to attack in isolation every possession, so it will be up to him and Fournier to get the ball moving.
The C’s have given up 100 or more points for ten games in a row. The Cavaliers have the lowest-scoring offense in the league (103.8) and have failed to crack 100 in 26 of their 69 games. They are 2-24 in those games, so if the Celtics can manage to put together a solid defensive effort, they’ll win handily.
The Cavs are the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA this season (33.8%), that will help a Celtics team allowing 44.6% shooting from three to opponents over their last five games. If there is one win remaining on the schedule, it’s tonight.
Celtics 106, Cavaliers 102
TIP OFF: 8:00 p.m. @ Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse
RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub
TV: NBC Sports Boston