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Celtics/Cavs Preview

   by ASA - 05/07/2010

Friday, May 7 - 7:00 PM EST

Rivalry Renewed

After stealing home-court advantage with a big win in game 2, the Celtics return home on Friday night for game 3. This will be the 7th meeting between these two this season (including playoffs) with both teams having won three games apiece.

The Celtics are 27-17 (15-28-1 ATS) at home this season while the Cavs are 27-16 (23-19-1 ATS) on the road. Boston is 1-1 at home against the Cavs this season, losing by 20 in February and winning by 4 in early April. The Celtics have been a home dog just three times this year and are 03 SU and ATS.

Cleveland is 11-4 ATS in the last 15 meetings and 7-3 ATS in the last 10 meetings in Boston.

Star Power

While Boston’s ‘Big Three’ of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett get most of the recognition; it has been Rajon Rondo stealing the show in the first two games of this series. Playing against the Cavs seems to bring out the best in Rondo.

Rondo averaged 14.8 points and 10.3 assists in four regular season games against the Cavs. In the first two games of this series, he's averaging 20 points, 15.5 assists and shooting 60 percent. The Cavs have tried five different defenders on him to no avail.

In addition to his 40 combined points in Games one and two, Rondo has 31 assists. Ten of those have been assisted 3-pointers. Rondo has had a direct hand in 112 of the 197 points the Celtics have scored in this series.

Rondo isn’t alone in having a beneficial contribution to the Big Three. Rasheed Wallace came off the bench to finish with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in game 2. Supporting cast members Rondo, Wallace, Kendrick Perkins, and Glen Davis finished game 2 with 46 points on 19 of 26 shooting, along with 17 rebounds and 21 assists.

“That’s pretty much the game plan for how we’re going to have to beat this team,’’ Kevin Garnett said. “We’re going to have to do it together and collectively.’’

Team president Danny Ainge added: “That’s how our team is right now. Not any one person has to carry the load, and we don’t rely on one person to have a great performance. Every night it can be a different person, and that’s the strength of our team.’’

It’s no secret that as the starters go, the Celtics go, but there’s a limit on how much of the load they can be expected to carry. If they can get a similar contribution from their supporting cast on Friday, it will be hard to defeat the Celtics at home.

Cavs Supporting Cast

Completely contrary to Boston, the Cavs didn’t have much of a supporting cast to LeBron James in game two.

Mo Williams, after contributing 20 points on 8 of 14 shooting in game 1, made just 1 of 9 shots and totaled 4 points in game two. Williams wasn’t the only one that struggled in game two. While James scored 24 points on 7-of-15 shooting in the 104-86 loss, his teammates combined to shoot 38 percent from the floor. It was the Cavaliers first home loss with LeBron James in the lineup since Feb. 18.

Shaquille O’Neal has managed just 20 points and 8 rebounds on 8 of 22 shooting in this series. And most of those makes were within 3 feet of the basket. When Shaq isn’t an offensive threat in the paint, it allows Boston to shift their defense and focus on stopping James.

With most of the team struggling in game two, Coach Mike Brown isn’t pointing any fingers at individuals, rather implying that the whole team needs to produce a better effort.

“Tonight it was real simple,’’ Brown said. “For 48 minutes, we did not play with a sense of urgency. We tried the last few minutes of the game. They kicked our behind from the beginning. They got every 50/50 ball, they converted every offensive rebound into points, and we did not fight back until late.

Defense is the name of the game in the playoffs. Cleveland has allowed 48.2% shooting and 105.3 PPG in three losses to the Celtics this year. In their three wins, they allowed just 41.7% shooting and 91.3 PPG.

From the Infirmary

LeBron James had another MRI on his bothersome right elbow, according to team officials. It was the second MRI James has had on the elbow after being diagnosed with a strain and a bone bruise in the elbow after their first round series. James insists that it’s not a factor, but it’s no secret that we’re seeing a less aggressive LeBron in this series.

For the second time in the past month, Anderson Varejao is on the injury report with back spasms and is questionable for Game 3. Varejao is averaging just 5.7 rebounds and shooting 32 percent in the past four games. Varejao is an important player for the Cavs against Boston. In the two wins over the Celtics in the regular season, Varejao averaged 15.5 points and 10 rebounds

Head-to-Head Statistical Analysis (Six total games in 2009-10)

Points per Game
Boston: 98.3 PPG
Cleveland: 101.1 PPG

Field Goal Percentage
Boston: 44%
Cleveland: 46%

Three Point Field Goal Percentage
Boston: 41% (42 of 102)
Cleveland: 34% (38 of 110)

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