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Game 44: Celtics vs. Cavaliers

at TD Garden, 7:30 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)

GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)

The Boston Celtics were embarrassed about blowing a double-digit lead in losing to a beatable team their last time out. Losing in any kind of fashion to their next opponent would be far worse.

The Celtics, who again expect to be without Shaquille O'Neal, look to get back on track Tuesday night against a Cleveland Cavaliers team that has just one victory since the end of November.

Boston (33-10) looked poised to win its sixth in a row Saturday, leading Washington by 16 points in the first quarter, but slowly fell apart and lost 85-83. Things got particularly ugly in the fourth quarter, as the Celtics missed 18 of 23 shots and finished with 11 points, a season low for any period.

"Let's just say that was the basketball gods punishing us for the way we played," coach Doc Rivers said.

They certainly shouldn't lose to Cleveland (8-36), which has dropped 17 straight and 27 of 28 since beating Memphis on Nov. 27. Despite the Cavaliers' epic struggles, the Celtics aren't about to overlook them, especially after losing in Cleveland 95-87 on Oct. 27.

"If we do (overlook them), then we'll lose," Rivers said.

The Celtics avenged their loss to the Cavaliers with a 106-87 victory Nov. 30, which started Cleveland's disastrous stretch. This will be the first -- and only -- meeting of the season in Boston, and that doesn't bode well for the Cavs. The Celtics are an East-best 21-3 at home, while Cleveland has dropped a team-record-tying 21 consecutive road games since winning at New Jersey on Nov. 9.

The Cavs returned to New Jersey on Monday, but fell 103-101. Cleveland led by as many as 12 points and had a chance for the win after Brook Lopez's go-ahead jumper with 1.4 seconds remaining, but Daniel Gibson's 3-point attempt missed at the buzzer.

"We have to keep playing hard and applying all the things we talked about at both ends of the floor," coach Byron Scott said. "We have to know it's going to work out for us, we're going to have a breakout game. Right now we're losing some of these battles but in the long run we'll hopefully win the war."

Read the full preview HERE.

FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH

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  • Poor Cleveland: Boston's letdown Saturday in Washington, combined with two days off, simply doesn't bode well for a battered and bruised Cleveland squad. We don't condone gambling, but the Las Vegas line on this game is Celtics by 17 points (seventeen!?). That's one point for each of the Cavaliers' consecutive losses (or each of Boston's championship banners). Yes, Boston typically plays down to competition, but it's hard to imagine them doing it again after the wakeup call they got in the nation's capital. If it goes as the oddsmakers suggest, the only question is how early Gino will be gyrating on the JumboTron.

  • Caution: Wet Paint: Celtics coach Doc Rivers scolded his team for being so jump-shot happy during the final three quarters of Saturday's loss to the Wizards. Even without Shaquille O'Neal (sore right hip), expect Boston to live in the paint Tuesday, putting an emphasis on passing up good-not-great looks on the perimeter for more high-percentage shots inside.

  • RondoRondoRun, run, Rondo: The last time the Celtics played the Cavaliers, Rondo put up a season-high 17 shots, finishing with a season-high 23 points to go along with 12 assists and five rebounds over 38 minutes. In that game, 10 of Rondo's attempts came at the rim (and three more within 10 feet). Expect him to push the tempo and attack the rim when able.