New-look Cavs hitting their stride while Celtics stumble
BOSTON — Kevin Love has dominated the Celtics this season, to the tune of 56 points and 23 rebounds in a pair of Cleveland victories.
But Love, who recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery, won’t be in the lineup when the Cavaliers visit the Celtics in a meeting of the Eastern Conference’s top two seeds on Wednesday night.
The Cavs have averaged 126 points per game in the two get-togethers with the Celtics — both in Cleveland this season. And the defending champions hit TD Garden with five wins in their last six games and a 44-17 season record.
Article continues below ...
And they also hit Boston with another new player. After adding Kyle Korver and former 10-day signee Derrick Williams, Cleveland picked three-time All-Star guard Deron Williams, who is slated to make his Cavs debut Wednesday.
“Automatic leadership,” LeBron James said when asked what Williams adds. “He’s ran a franchise — multiple franchises — before, so you know he knows how to run a ball club. He’s played in big games before, so you know he won’t shy away from the moment.”
Williams has averaged 16.6 points and 8.2 assists per game in his career. But in 72 playoff games, he has hit 18.5 points and dished out 8.2 assists per game — and the playoffs are what this regular season is really all about with this team.
While the Cavs continue to add to their roster (big man Andrew Bogut will join the team later this week after he clears waivers), the Celtics, who would appear to need both a big man and a shooter, have passed on the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, and both Lou and Deron Williams. They come into this game losers of three of their four games out of the All-Star break and with their best players struggling.
Isaiah Thomas scored 19 points in Monday night’s home loss to the Atlanta Hawks and was just 4 of 21 from the floor, 1 of 6 from 3-point range, and turned the ball over seven times. In the four games since his All-Star appearance, he is 28-for-89 (31.4) percent from the floor and 13-for-37 (35.1) from 3-point range.
“I’m not as worried about Isaiah; I’m worried about how our team’s playing,” said Boston coach Brad Stevens.
And aside from Thomas, Al Horford has been invisible offensively the last four games, scoring just 25 points. He is 11-for-36 from the floor, 1-for-12 from behind the arc, in that span.
As far as the end of the streak, Boston’s little big man said, “No, I’ll break it again. I’m not worried about it. I’ll break it.”
Thomas has 61 points and 15 assists in the two games against the Cavs this season. Backcourt mate Avery Bradley, who returned from an 18-game absence (Achilles) to play 15 minutes Monday — the team will gradually build his minutes — had 49 points in the two games.
Kyrie Irving had 26 points and eight assists in the first Cleveland win and then went for 32 and 12 in the second one. James had 30 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds in the first game and 23 points 11 assists and eight rebounds in the second.
James missed Saturday night’s loss to the Chicago Bulls with strep throat but returned and scored 24 points in a 102-95 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday — all while still feeling under the weather.
“He brings so much to our team,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. “He’s just a winner. Anybody who goes to the Finals six straight times is a winner. He just makes everybody better, myself included. … That’s who he is. We needed his juice tonight.”