CLEVELAND – It’s a battle of teams playing without key players while riding low on five-game losing streaks. Sounds enthralling, yes? Of course it does.
Celtics guard Courtney Lee (sprained left ankle) will miss his third consecutive game, and Kevin Garnett (inflammation in his left ankle) is also out; neither Garnett nor Lee even made the trip to this Rust Belt city, where the Celtics will be playing the second of a back-to-back following Tuesday’s 15-point home loss to the New York Knicks.
For Cleveland, which last played Friday and was smashed by 38 points in Houston, All-Everything guard Kyrie Irving (shoulder) and Dion Waiters (knee) are also out.
This is the third of four meetings between these teams; each team has won once.
BOSTON CELTICS (36-34)
PG Avery Bradley
SG Jordan Crawford
SF Paul Pierce
PF Brandon Bass
PF Jeff Green
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (22-47)
PG Shaun Livingston
SG Wayne Ellington
SF Alonzo Gee
PF Tristan Thompson
C Tyler Zeller
Officials: Bill Kennedy, Brian Forte, JT Orr
TV, radio: 7 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, WEEI (93.7 FM).
• Turnovers are going to be a telling statistic. The Celtics are committing 16.8 turnovers per game during their losing streak, nearly two more per game than they average overall this season. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers rank 8th in the NBA in opponent turnovers per game at 15.5 and 8th in points off turnovers (17.5). And when these teams played Jan. 22, Cleveland forced 20 turnovers and turned them into 18 points.
• Another key factor tonight: energy. The Cavaliers are coming off four days rest while the Celtics played last night and had a road back-to-back two days before that.
• And the final key factor that we’re going to discuss here is that area around the rim commonly called “the paint.” Garnett used to call that patch of hardwood his home, but since he’s been out, Celtics opponents have invaded it and set up shop. The Knicks scored 50 points in the paint there Tuesday and out-scored the Celtics in second-chance points, 29 to 6. If Boston gets crushed in those categories, they’ll lose again tonight.