The Cavs play the Celtics on Friday night. Here are some thoughts:
- First off, I would like to thank the Bobcats for the scrimmage Wednesday night. It was truly nice of them to give us some momentum (in the form of a 111-81 blowout) heading into a big game. Seriously though, the Cavs’ play has been pretty ugly of late, and it is good to see them play well in advance of the Celtics game. The win against the Bobcats moves them to 18-0 on the season at home. The home unbeaten streak will be on the line when the Cavs take on Boston.
- The Celts-Cavs game has lost some luster since both teams have suddenly become quite beatable. They are still two of the top teams in the NBA, but I doubt anyone is saying that either will win 70 games anymore. The Celtics seem to have hit a wall after their 27-2 start. They have lost six of their last eight, which includes a loss to the aforementioned Bobcats by 8 in overtime. They also lost by 12 to the Knicks who the Cavs have absolutely destroyed both times they have played this season. Doc Rivers claims that the Celtics are tired, which is possible since their three stars are all getting up there in age. Despite that, I expect them to come to play Friday night, and I know that Paul Pierce always plays his best against Lebron.
- This is the Cavs’ first chance for a statement win since the third game of the season. As good as Cleveland has looked for most of this season, in the end, they will be judged by their ability to beat the elite teams in the playoffs. It would be nice to see a preview of that ability on Friday. Don’t get me wrong. I think the Cavs are a great team. The blowout wins against mediocre to bad competition have been great since we have all seen them play down to their competition in previous seasons. Also, the wins against Denver, Dallas, and Houston (who beat Boston Wednesday) have been nice. However, if only for my psyche, a statement win against Boston would be go a long way toward proving that the Cavs are truly an elite team.
- If the Cavs are not missing him already, this could be a game where they really miss Zydrunas. For one thing, while many teams cannot stop Lebron with or without Z, the Celtics showed in last year’s playoffs that they are capable of playing pretty good defense against Lebron. Without Z’s ability to spread the floor with his jump shot, the Celtics can key on Lebron a lot more. Despite Anderson Varejao’s improvement on offense, the combination of him and Ben Wallace on the floor still allows Boston to double Lebron with their big men. Additionally, the lack of Z means more minutes for J.J. Hickson who while he may have a bright future, does not appear to be ready for a game like this. He certainly will not have the effect at either end of the floor that Z does. Although Hickson can score a little, he has yet to have an effect on any game that the Cavs did not win by over 15. Also, he slows the ball movement because he rarely passes, he does not spread the floor, and he is not a strong offensive rebounder. On the defensive end, Hickson needs to be a force inside because of Rondo and Pierce’s ability to beat their man; however, he seems to move slowly on defense. He is, however, capable of affecting shots when he is in the right position so hopefully, we will see a little extra hustle from J.J. in this game.
- Daniel Gibson, Wally Szcerbiak, Mo Williams, and Delonte West all shot pretty well in Wednesday’s game. Each has struggled with their shooting a little lately so hopefully, they are getting back on track. Gibson, in particular, has really struggled with his shot this season. He often looks like he is rushing his shot, and he only seems to have good games in blowouts. Both are strange since in previous years, his shooting was one of the few consistent things about the Cavs offense, and he typically seemed like the coolest guy on the court in any situation. If and when he gets his shot back, the Cavs could get really hot. Hopefully, the Bobcats game got him going because if any two of Gibson, Szcerbiak, Williams, and West are shooting well against the Celtics, I think the Cavs will take the game. No one has been able to keep up with the Cavs when they have been clicking on offense, and I do not think the Celtics will be an exception.