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Wednesday, December 19, 2012
W2W4: Celtics vs. Cavaliers (Game 25 of 82)

By Chris Forsberg

AP PhotoKevin Garnett and the Celtics would bend over backwards for a win.
Fresh off a miserable three-game road trip that saw a trio of double-digit losses, the Boston Celtics (12-12, 8-4 home) host the Cleveland Cavaliers (5-21, 2-13 away) on the second night of a back-to-back on Wednesday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

* BOSTON'S WEAKNESSES WILL BE TESTED: Boston's defense thrives in the halfcourt set, but Cleveland has the personnel to exploit the Celtics' weaknesses. Expect the Cavaliers to test Boston's perimeter defense by attacking with the pick-and-roll featuring Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao. Boston absolutely has to keep a body on Varejao, not only in roll and cut situations, but after shots go up to prevent him from being the usual menace on the offensive glass. If Boston can limit the damage by Irving and Varejao -- far easier said than done -- Cleveland's depth will be tested.

* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: Offensively, the Cavaliers rank 27th in the league, averaging a mere 0.864 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data. Irving thrives in isolation (88th percentile), while Varejao gets his points off pure hustle and activity. Defensively, Cleveland is 29th in the league allowing a whopping 0.96 points per play. About the only thing they do well is defend the roll man in pick-and-roll situations and are otherwise exploitable.

* START OF A SHAKE UP?: Rivers said after Tuesday's loss that Boston needs to "keep searching" for the right groups and combinations. While there are no obvious tweaks to Boston's lineup -- other than waiting for Avery Bradley to be healthy enough to resume game activity -- it will be interesting to see if Rivers makes any other changes to his rotation.

* GOTTA HAVE THIS ONE: Both teams are playing on the second night of a back-to-back, including Cleveland, which is coming off a loss to a rather unremarkable Toronto squad. The Celtics can almost justify their road struggles -- Houston, San Antonio, and Chicago are solid playoff-caliber teams. But the Cavs are clearly struggling and Boston needs to pounce. Fans are already slamming panic buttons and will really be in freak-out mode with a loss to Cleveland.

* BRING A TOY!: The Celtics are partnering with Mayor Thomas Menino’s City of Boston Holiday Toy Drive and Toys for Tots while collecting new, unwrapped toys at the team's two home games this week (Wednesday vs. the Cavaliers, Friday vs. the Bucks). Collection areas will be set up at the main entrance turnstiles.