Dribbles: Cavs-Celtics weekend could be preview of playoffs
Records: Cavaliers 51-27; Celtics 36-42.
TV: FOX Sports Ohio. Radio: WTAM-AM 1100 flagship; WAKR-AM 1590 Akron.
Celtics: C Tyler Zeller; PF Brandon Bass; SF Evan Turner; SG Aveery Bradley; Marcus Smart.
Cavaliers: C Timofey Mozgov; PF Tristan Thompson; SF LeBron James; SG J.R. Smith; PG Kyrie Irving.
Cavaliers: G Iman Shumpert (quad) questionable; C Anderson Varejao (Achilles) out.
Celtics: None to report.
1. The Cavs are your 2014-15 Central Division champions and own the No. 2 seed in the East. They cannot move up, down or sideways.
2. At this time next week, we will know when, where and who the Cavs will meet in the first round of the playoffs. And if the Celtics even made it.
3. The Celtics currently own the No. 7 seed. They have the same record as the Nets, but the Celtics own the tiebreaker. But with four games to go, the Pacers and Heat are very much alive.
4. I predict the Celtics will go 2-2, and stay at No. 7. I predict the Nets will go 2-2 and remain No. 8. That means I predict the Pacers and Heat, last year’s Eastern Conference finalists, will go 2-2 and miss. (Actually, I have the Pacers winning just one of their final four.)
5. So if my calculations are correct, this could be a preview of the the first round. Or at least a semi-preview. While the Celtics will be playing their buns off to get in, the Cavs could understandably take it very easy.
6. LeBron James is a go, although it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him play no more than half the game. That’s especially the case when these teams meet again Sunday in Boston.
7. Others, such as Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith, could play 20 minutes or less too. But that’s not official and not even been mentioned by the coaching staff. It’s just a gut feeling.
8. Of course, my gut also sometimes tells me to eat a Galley Boy from Swenson’s.
9. So see? My gut often makes the right call.
10. The Cavs have won 12 of 14 — and 32 of 39. That’s simply a remarkable stretch. It’s been a long time since teams have played as collectively well as the Cavs, Warriors and Hawks from January on.
11. Meanwhile, what a coaching job by Brad Stevens of the Celtics. He may not win Coach of the Year, but it’d be hard to find a man who has done more with less.
12. That’s not to downplay some of the talent on the Celtics. Brandon Bass is forever underrated. Former Cavs center Tyler Zeller is having a career year. Evan Turner has been a great fit. Avery Bradley is as steady as ever, and Marcus Smart is coming along nicely. Jared Sullinger has also returned sooner than expected from injury. He’s not the same Sullinger, but he is providing a nice lift on a young team.
13. Remember, this is the same team that traded Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green earlier this season. Yet the Celtics have actually been at least as good, probably better.
14. Also, Isaiah Thomas off the bench is lethal. He always gives the Cavs fits — Kings, Suns, Celtics, it doesn’t matter. Thomas is 5-foot-9 (on a good day) and can beat you with pure determination.
15. Cavs guard Iman Shumpert is questionable with a quad contusion (or bruised quad). He’d play if this were a playoff game. But it’s not, so we’ll have to wait until the game to see how it goes.