The Boston Celtics (12-17, 7-8 home) host the Cleveland Cavaliers (10-18, 2-12 away) on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden (CSN, 1 p.m.). Here's what to watch for:
KYRIE ELEISON: The Celtics limited Kyrie Irving to a mere 17 points in the first meeting this season, but he's gone for 39+ points in two of his last four games. Avery Bradley downplayed the matchup, but he clearly gets up for competing with Irving. "I feel like we all have to play great tomorrow to be able to stop Kyrie -- or at least slow him down a little bit," said Bradley. Coach Brad Stevens stressed that preventing Irving and Dion Waiters from getting into the paint and creating havoc is key to Boston's success Saturday.
BACK TO WORK: How will the Celtics respond after five days off? "We’ll find out," Stevens said with a smile. "That can go both ways. I don’t want to predict that. I think that I’ve been on teams where they’ve come back after breaks and they are really good; I’ve been on teams where we’ve come back after breaks and they look stagnant. Bottom line is we’ll find out [Saturday with] how we play." Sitting on a three-game losing streak during this break, Boston ought to be plenty motivated to get back in the win column.
BETTER DEFENSE REQUIRED: Boston's defense has struggled in recent games. Stevens has implored his team to approach Saturday's game with sustained focus on the defensive end. "If we don’t play well, we’ll get beat. It’s pretty simple," he said. "If we don’t defend well, it’s going to be really hard for us to win. They are a team that is really well coached. Mike Brown has always been a defensive-minded coach. But he’s running really good stuff, it gives those guys a lot of freedom. It puts you in a tough position. [Andrew] Bynum has become a guy that, depending on the day, can give you 15 and 8, or 17 and 9. And he hasn’t had that for a couple of games, so you have to be alert to that. And you have to understand that a guy like [Tristan] Thompson is averaging 15 per game over his last five and playing really really well. They are a team that has a lot more than just their guards, but the guards stand out because of their ability to get to the rim."
A CHANCE FOR GREEN: Our friends at STATS LLC offers this note on Jeff Green vs. the Cavs: "Green has struggled recently, averaging 10.6 points on 37.7 percent shooting over his last five games, but he's been a huge problem for a Cleveland team with a revolving door at the small forward position. Green has averaged 25 points in his last three against the Cavaliers, including a season-high 31 last month."