Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Time to 'play right'

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Celtics-Cavaliers preview: Time to 'play right'

CLEVELAND -- The temperature is unusually chilly this time of year -- and it's pretty cold outside, too.

The Boston Celtics are not in a good place right now, in so many areas. Their offense doesn't seem to have a flow to it. There are too many defensive breakdowns. And it's to the point where even the cool-as-they-come Doc Rivers is close to reaching his breaking point with this group.

Rivers could not contain his frustration after a 103-88 loss at Detroit on Sunday, a game in which the Celtics never led.

"I gotta either find the right combination or the right guys, or we're going to get some guys out of here. That's the bottom line," Rivers said at the time. "This group right now, they're not playing right. It's in them to play right."

They will get that chance tonight against a Cleveland team that has had its share of issues all season.

Here are some of the keys to tonight's game, with the Celtics looking to snap a three-game losing streak and avoid slipping below .500 and avoid a second four-game losing streak this season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics have not been attacking the lane as much as they should, but that should change tonight. The Cavaliers' interior defense is indeed one of their weaknesses. In fact, Cleveland ranks dead-last in blocked shots (3.5) per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Kyrie Irving. Rondo may be an All-Star starter, but Irving is progressing towards being one of the NBA's better playmakers. And like most young guards in the league, facing Rondo tends to bring out the best in him.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett has been solid of late, but the C's really need him to have one of those dominate performances that he's good for every now and then. Without Anderson Varejao (blood clot, out for the season) in the mix, the chances of Garnett delivering a huge game become much, much greater for the Celtics.

STAT TO TRACK: Ball movement has been an issue for the Cavaliers most of this season, a trend the C's would like to see continue tonight. Cleveland averages just 19.4 assists per game which ranks 29th in the NBA. Meanwhile, the Celtics' defense has limited opponents to 21.4 assists per game this season which ranks 12th in the league.

Bradley still hurting, will miss Celtics game vs. Trail Blazers

Bradley still hurting, will miss Celtics game vs. Trail Blazers

WALTHAM, Mass. – The right Achilles’ strain that has kept Avery Bradley out of five of the Celtics’ past six games, will continue to keep the 6-foot-2 guard sidelined.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Bradley will not play Saturday against the Portland Trail Blazers.
 
Stevens added that no additional tests have been taken and the Achilles’ itself is structurally fine.
 
“He’s got a lot of soreness around it, and that’s one of those things you have to be ultra-careful with,” said Stevens, who later added that Bradley would not practice with the team today. “When he [Bradley] came back, he said he felt a lot better, and then he played and the next day he practiced. We didn’t do anything live but he did a lot of cutting and did not feel near as good. That’s why he didn’t play Wednesday.”
 
The absence of Bradley was clearly felt in a 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday, a game in which Knicks guard Derrick Rose – the man Bradley would have likely spent defending most of the game – scored 30 points.
 
This season, all-NBA first team defender is  the Celtics’ No. 2 scorer at 17 points per game along with averaging a team-best 6.9 rebounds.
 
In addition, Bradley is shooting a career-best 40.9 percent from 3-point range, as well as dishing out 2.4 assists per game, which also represents a career-high for the 26-year-old.


 

Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown still undecided on All-Star dunk contest

Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown still undecided on All-Star dunk contest

WALTHAM, Mass. – To dunk or not to dunk with the best in the NBA?
 
That is the question Celtics rookie forward Jaylen Brown is grappling with these days.
 
The 6-foot-7 Brown confirmed that he has been invited to be part of the league’s Slam Dunk competition at All-Star weekend, but hasn’t made up his mind as to whether he will participate.
 
Brown said he’ll likely make a decision about it sometime this weekend.
 
While he certainly understands that is indeed an honor for any player to be asked to participate in All-Star weekend, Brown said his trepidation about being part of the slam dunk competition has a lot to do with its potential impact on his body and how that may affect his ability to recharge over the weekend and get ready to finish out his rookie season strong.
 
If he decided to enter the contest, he would be facing some really stiff competition from last year’s winner Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando’s Aaron Gordon, whose battle last season put their slam dunk competition among the best ever.
 
Facing tough competition is not something that concerns Brown.
 
“I’m not worried about anybody or anything,” Brown said. “I think I have a lot to offer. Just like your rookie year, your body and everything … it’s a lot. All those dunks, they look cool but it takes a toll on your body for sure. I want to put myself in the best position to help the team.”
 
While his focus has been on the Celtics, Brown acknowledged he has been getting a few tips on the competition from teammate Gerald Green, who is also a former Slam Dunk champion.
 
“[Gerald] Green has been coaching me up, giving me a lot of good ideas I wouldn’t have thought on my own,” Brown said. “If I do decide to do it, it’ll be some stuff [nobody] has seen before.”