The Boston Celtics (45-20, 33-31-1 ATS) hit the road for a matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers (40-26, 35-29-2 ATS). Boston is less than 24 hours removed from a gut-wrenching, double overtime loss to the New York Knicks. Cleveland, after losing Wednesday’s game against the C’s in Boston, handled business against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday. The Cavs are up 2-1 in the season series. According to online sports book betonline.ag, the Cavaliers are 8-point favorites.
Point Spread: Cleveland Cavaliers -8
O/U: 217.5 points
ML: Cavaliers -325, Celtics +270
It’s a rough outlook on tonight’s game for Boston. Jayson Tatum (knee), Al Horford (back), and Robert Williams III (hamstring) are all out. Tatum and Horford’s injuries are minor, while Williams III will be out for the next 7-10 days according to Joe Mazzulla.
The Cavs have a much cleaner injury report. Donovan Mitchell (finger) is questionable, but he’s expected to suit up.
Celtics Projected Starters
PG: Marcus Smart
SG: Derrick White
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Blake Griffin
C: Mike Muscala
Cavaliers Projected Starters
PG: Darius Garland
SG: Donovan Mitchell
SF: Isaac Okoro
PF: Evan Mobley
C: Jarrett Allen
Boston Celtics Overview
The last two losses have been brutal for entirely different reasons. Friday’s loss against Brooklyn was an embarrassment, letting the Nets win comfortably after they trailed by as much as 28. Sunday was hard fought, but the Celtics couldn’t outlast the Knicks, who seem to have their number this season. One thing at the center of both games was total disconnect on the offensive end. The lack of a clear plan of attack sank the team, especially in the clutch against the Knicks. For the Celtics to have a shot tonight, they need to execute to the fullest extent on the offensive end and not just freewheel.
That starts with taking smarter threes and looking to create from inside the arc. On Wednesday, the team shot 50% from three by limiting their total attempts to 32. This runs contrary to what Mazzulla preaches on the offensive end, but driving at Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley gave Boston’s offense another dimension, and helped lead them to their only win last week. The absence of Tatum and Williams III will make replicating this difficult, so the team will have to look to Jaylen Brown and Derrick White to carry the load.
Cleveland Cavaliers Overview
The game plan for tonight is simple: bully the Celtics’ bigs. Aside from Luke Kornet, who should slide back into the rotation, the Celtics are giving up a lot of defense down low with Williams III out. Expect Cleveland to attack the paint consistently with Blake Griffin and Mike Muscala needing to play more minutes.
The Cavs can also really start to pull away when Boston needs to go deep into their bench for playing time. Last night, in an eight-man rotation, Muscala and Sam Hauser gave them practically nothing on either end, while Grant Williams played 44 minutes but got worked in big moments on the defense.
Even if the Celtics were fully healthy, this would be a tough one to win because of how grueling last night’s game was. With Tatum, Horford, and Williams III all out, this immediately becomes one to write off. The Celtics’ depth almost pulled through in a similar situation against the Milwaukee Bucks, but given the team’s current skid, I don’t foresee that happening again. I’m taking the Cavs tonight, and think Boston will bounce back on Wednesday.