The Boston Celtics continue to slide – and with it, their
chances of improving their playoff seeding in the Eastern
Struggling to adjust in the wake of a significant injury, Boston
on Wednesday night visits a Cleveland Cavaliers team that is
dealing with its own injury problems and is also mired in a
five-game losing streak.
The Celtics (36-34) are only a little more than two weeks
removed from a five-game winning streak, but have since gone 2-7
and are a defeat away from matching a season-worst six-game skid
from Jan. 16-25. They were in a three-way tie for fifth place in
the East on March 16, but are now in seventh, 2 1/2 games back of
Tuesday’s 100-85 home loss to the Knicks marked their second
straight game without Kevin Garnett, who is out with inflammation
in his left ankle and a return date is uncertain. Courtney Lee also
missed his second game in a row because of a sprained left ankle,
with Jordan Crawford starting and scoring 14 points.
Although Garnett is the team’s leading rebounder (7.8 rpg) and
second-leading scorer (14.9 ppg), coach Doc Rivers doesn’t buy his
absence as much of an excuse.
“Kevin’s not playing. I don’t worry about it,” Rivers said.
“Overall, we were pretty bad. Kevin had nothing to do with
Playing without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics have struggled with
turnovers, committing an average of 16.8 per game during their skid
compared to opponents’ 13.2. That could be trouble even against the
Cavaliers (22-47), who have the league’s third-fewest wins but are
averaging a league-low 12.9 turnovers since New Year’s Day.
Cleveland is also forcing an average of 16.6 turnovers in its last
Boston coughed up 20 turnovers Tuesday leading to 17 points for
“We’ve got to get back to playing with more energy, forcing a
lot of turnovers like we were three or four weeks ago,” said Paul
Pierce, averaging 20.4 points on 53.0 percent shooting over his
last 14 games. “Turning the ball over less if we’re going to give
ourselves a chance.”
After blowing a 27-point lead to Miami last Wednesday, things
got even worse for the Cavaliers in a 116-78 loss to Houston on
Friday – their largest margin of defeat this season.
“As I told our guys, it was the first game in a long time that I
saw us being very disconnected on both ends of the floor,” coach
Byron Scott said.
Cleveland is being outrebounded by an average of 9.4 during its
slide while letting opponents average 108.0 points on 50.6 percent
shooting. Friday marked the ninth time in 11 games the Cavaliers
were held to less than 100 points.
Kyrie Irving (shoulder) and Dion Waiters (knee) have both been
ruled out. Irving, who has missed six straight, may miss the rest
of the season, while Waiters is expected to be re-evaluated this
week, but he’s out indefinitely after missing the last two
For the Celtics, Jeff Green continues to play well since making
his first start of the season on Feb. 22, averaging 15.9 points in
The teams split two earlier meetings this season, with Pierce
notching a season-high 40 points on 13-of-16 shooting in a 103-91
win on Dec. 19. But he struggled in a 95-90 loss in Cleveland on
Jan. 22, going 3 of 15 for 12 points with four turnovers. Irving
had 40 points in that game.