Celtics-Cavaliers preview: How to snap the skid

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Celtics-Cavaliers preview: How to snap the skid

BOSTON Beating the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of the NBA's worst teams, would be a major step forward for the Boston Celtics.

Yes it has come to that for the C's who return home after an 0-for-the-road stretch of games that now has them sitting on a season-worst three-game losing streak.

The way Boston (12-12) has played has put a muzzle on all that early-season chatter about them being a title contender.

At this point, no one can even say for sure that this group is even going to be in the playoffs.

If the playoffs were today, the Celtics would be the last team in as an eighth seed.

"This team is not a good team right now," C's coach Doc Rivers said of his club. "This is who we are right now. We're a 500 team. And we play like that."

The Cavaliers (5-21), losers of more games thus far this season than any team, would love to be considered a .500 ball club here in Year Three of the post-LeBron era.

While they are indeed a work in progress, there are signs that better days lie ahead for them.

Former Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving is coming into his own as one of the NBA's up-and-coming point guards, while rookie guard Dion Waiters has established himself as one of the top players in this rookie class.

And then there's veteran big man Anderson Varejao who leads the NBA in rebounding this season. He is playing at an all-star caliber level, although it's unclear if the Celtics will have to deal with himtonight.

Varejao suffered a bruised knee injury in the first quarter of Cleveland's 113-99 loss to Toronto on Tuesday. He was able to continue playing, but Cavs head coach Byron Scott expressed concern about whether he would playtonight.

A Cavaliers team official said that Varejao in addition to guard Daniel Gibson (ankle), are both game-time decisionstonight.

Their absence would certainly bolster Boston's chances at snapping their current three-game losing skid. Here are some other keys totonight's game as the Celtics look to avoid slippping below .500 for the first time since a Nov. 9 loss to Philadelphia that dropped them to 2-3 overall.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Even though Boston has struggled, the Cavaliers still view them as one of the league's better teams. That's not necessarily a good thing for Boston when you consider the Cavaliers' best play tends to come against the best teams. Of their five wins, three have come against teams that had winning records at the time.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs. Kyrie Irving. Irving put Rondo and the rest of the NBA on notice a year ago with his late-game heroics against the Celtics, and has done more of the same this season when healthy. His speed, strength and ability to score in a variety of ways will be a good test for Rondo.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett continues to have the fullest plate of any Celtic, and the weight of all that has hurt his ability to have the kind of impact he wants and needs. Withtonightbeing a back-to-back, it'll be interesting to see if Doc Rivers elects to trim his minutes some or sub him in and out differently than he has in the past.

STAT TO TRACK: How the Celtics defend in the first quarter will go a long way in determining whether they win tonight. This season, the Celtics are 4-1 when limiting opponents to 19 or fewer points scored in the first.

Update: Three-way Cavs, Nuggets, Pacers deal for George 'very unlikely'

Update: Three-way Cavs, Nuggets, Pacers deal for George 'very unlikely'

We knew back on the night of the draft that as the Cavaliers desperately looked for a way to pry Paul George out of Indiana, they started involving third teams in the talks (because Indy had no interest in Kevin Love for Paul George straight up, not should they). Phoenix was involved, but that fizzled. So did talks involving Denver.

But those latter ones didn’t die the night of the draft, according to reports that came out over the weekend. Denver, Cleveland, and Indiana were still talking about a three-team deal that would land Love in Denver and George in Cleveland. The challenge for Cleveland was finding the combination of young players and draft picks that Indiana wants in a deal — Indy is rumored to want a lottery pick (preferably high lottery) and a young player or players.

Now that Denver three-team is “very unlikely” to happen, according to Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Click here for the complete story.

NFL's Top 10 list revealed Monday night: Where does Tom Brady wind up?

NFL's Top 10 list revealed Monday night: Where does Tom Brady wind up?

NFL players vote every year on which players should make up the list of the best their game has to offer, but it's an imperfect system. And that's probably putting it lightly. 

The NFL Network will reveal the final 10 players on its annual Top 100 list Monday night at 8 p.m. It will be an order that has been chosen by some players, not all. Of those who took part, some hastily made their way through a handful of names at the end of last season handing over their choices. 

Yet it's the list the league ends up with, for better or for worse, prompting responses like JJ Watt's when he found out he was No. 35 this year after playing in three games last season. 

On NFL.com, the Top 100 list is described as the answer to the question, "Who are the top 100 players in the NFL today?" If that's the criteria -- and not simply performance in 2016 -- then Watt's complaint actually doesn't hold much water. If he's healthy, no one would argue that he's one of the best 35 players "in the NFL today."

This year, several Patriots players from 2016 made the cut: Rob Gronkowski (No. 23), LeGarrette Blount (No. 80), Julian Edelman (No. 71), Dont'a Hightower (No. 94) and Malcolm Butler (No. 99). 

Tom Brady will be the last of Bill Belichick's players to be named. He's lumped into a Top 10 that will include Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Ezekiel Elliott, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, Julio Jones, Von Miller and Khalil Mack.

Here's what we think the list should look like when the curtain falls on the finale of this flawed endeavor:

10. Elliott
9. Beckham
8. Bell
7. Brown
6. Ryan
5. Jones
4. Miller
3. Mack
2. Rodgers
1. Brady