Game 17: Celtics vs. Cavaliers
November, 30, 2010
By Chris Forsberg | ESPNBoston.com
|(12-4, 5-3 away)||-- vs. --||(7-9, 4-4 home)|
GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
Following a loss to Cleveland during the opening week of the season, Boston center Shaquille O'Neal admitted that the Celtics overlooked a Cavaliers team playing its first game without LeBron James.
The Celtics likely won't make that mistake again, especially since Cleveland has found someone new to take big shots and make big plays with the game on the line.
Boston looks to avenge that early defeat and win its fourth in a row Tuesday night when it visits the Cavaliers, who have leaned heavily on Mo Williams in winning two of their last three games.
After opening the season with an emotional 88-80 win over Miami on Oct. 26, the Celtics (12-4) suffered a letdown the following night and lost 95-87 in Cleveland. Boston, which frustrated James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in one of the most highly anticipated regular-season games in years, had trouble against a Cavaliers team that got a game-high 21 points from J.J. Hickson.
"We took them a little bit too lightly," O'Neal said after that contest.
The Celtics haven't been caught off guard too many other times since. They won five in a row immediately following that defeat and are tied with Orlando for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
One of the three losses Boston suffered since falling to Cleveland came at Toronto on Nov. 21. The Celtics avenged that defeat with a 110-101 win over the Raptors on Friday.
Read the full preview HERE.
FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
- Revenge factor: The Celtics haven't exactly been perfect in "games they should win" this season as three of their four losses can be attributed -- at least in some small part -- to looking past teams like Toronto and Cleveland. Ironically, Boston has fared much better against the teams that it slipped up against last season, like New Jersey and Washington, so they seem to be atoning along the way. They did just that Friday night against Toronto and, undoubtedly, Cleveland's October win will be fresh in mind for Boston Tuesday.
- Shaq-a-tones: O'Neal missed Boston's 90-minute practice session due to a mix-up in times. It happens. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the team had already moved past the issue by the time the practice session ended and O'Neal joined the squad for an afternoon flight to Cleveland. Back in the city he played in last year, and needing to atone for Monday's transgression, Shaq could be in line for another monster effort. He's been dominating inside lately, earning a nomination for Eastern Conference Player of the Week for his efforts last week (Shaq is averaging 18 points and 10.3 rebounds over his last three games, adding 1.7 blocks over 25 minutes per contest.)
- KG the key?: During last year's playoff series against the Cavaliers, the Celtics made a concerted effort to funnel the ball to Kevin Garnett, hoping to exploit a favorable matchup at the power forward spot. He put up shots in bulk and the strategy played a big part in Boston's eventual triumph over Cleveland. In Boston's October visit, Garnett put up just eight shots (hitting three of them) for nine points. Expect him -- and Shaq -- to get plenty of touches around the basket Tuesday.