BOSTON — How does Isaiah Thomas feel heading into the biggest regular-season game his Boston Celtics have played in years?
“It’s just another game,” the little big man said Tuesday as the Celtics prepared for a Wednesday night visit by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the Eastern Conference lead at stake.
Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. on FOX Sports Ohio
“I think we’ve got to treat it like that,” Thomas said. “I mean, being No. 1 in the standings, you don’t feel different. I don’t at least. I’m treating it like another game.”
The Cavaliers (50-27) defeated the Orlando Magic for the 17th straight time Tuesday night, moving into a tie with the Celtics (50-27). If the Cavs win in Boston on Wednesday, they would take the season series 3-1 and own the tiebreaker.
Before the Tuesday game, Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said he planned to play all his players on the back end of the back-to-back. The Cavaliers are 1-9 on back ends this season.
“I mean, at this point, I don’t care who plays,” Thomas said. “If they don’t play, that’ll be good. If they do, we’ll be there at 8 o’clock to play them. I’m fine with either way they go. You can’t control that decision but, if they do play, it would definitely be a really good game and, if they don’t, we’ve just got to figure out how to get a win anyway.”
LeBron James recorded his second straight triple-double Tuesday night. He had 41 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists in a double-overtime win over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, then recorded his 12th triple-double of the season Tuesday with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
Kevin Love scored 28 points and grabbed 11 boards, and Kyrie Irving had 24 points and eight assists for the Cavs, who also got Kyle Korver back Tuesday after he missed the past four games (and 11 total) with a sore left foot. He scored 11 points off the bench.
While the Cavaliers, who are 19-19 on the road this season, are at full strength, the Celtics could be missing valuable piece Jae Crowder, who has a sore right elbow and is considered day-to-day. An MRI exam showed no structural damage, but he said Tuesday the elbow was “very, very tender and sore right now.”
The Celtics expect to have Avery Bradley back after his latest bout with a stomach problem.
Thomas has 92 points in the three games against Cleveland this season, while James has 81 points, 28 rebounds and 33 assists against the Celtics.
The Cavaliers, who have won three straight, used the 3-pointer to put the Magic away Tuesday, going 18-for-36 from behind the arc in a game that saw them register a 43-point third quarter.
J.R. Smith, back and healthy after sustaining a broken hand earlier in the season, is 19-for-33 from 3-point range in the past four games.
His return helped the Cavs become the third team in NBA history to hit 1,000 3-pointers in a season. The 2015-16 Warriors (1,077) and this year’s Rockets (1,109) are the others.
“I just think for me, it’s just more important to try and get our rhythm you know, going down the stretch,” Lue said. “Just see how guys feel. But you want to establish some kind of rhythm going into the playoffs and the guys know that, so just see how it goes.”