Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics
Where: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
BOSTON – The Boston Celtics finished a three-game road trip in impressive fashion and now look to build some momentum in a relatively soft portion of the schedule, beginning with Friday’s matchup with the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers. Behind 26 points and 10 assists from Kyrie Irving, the Celtics rolled past New Orleans 124-107 on Monday to finish the trip 2-1.
“That’s how we’re used to playing. That’s the team we know,” Boston guard Marcus Smart told reporters. “We had different guys diving on the floor and doing multiple things on the defensive end.” Monday’s triumph capped a stretch in which the Celtics played nine of 13 on the road — going 5-8 in that span — but the team now gets eight of 12 at home and the first seven of those contests are against teams that are .500 or worse. First up is an Eastern Conference-worst Cavaliers squad that has dropped two in a row and shook things up by trading away sharpshooter Kyle Korver for Utah guard Alec Burks and draft picks on Wednesday. Just six Cleveland players got into the scoring column in a 100-83 loss at Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS Ohio (Cleveland), NBCS Boston
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (4-16): Cleveland’s rebuild will revolve around rookie guard Collin Sexton, who continued his solid play with 21 points and a personal-best 10 rebounds against the Thunder. The 19-year-old is averaging 18.9 points while shooting 47.8 percent from 3-point range in 10 starts as he holds down the fort for a team with an unsettled roster due to the Korver trade, trade requests (J.R. Smith) and injuries. Veteran guard George Hill (shoulder) and swingman Sam Dekker (ankle) have both missed 10 straight games and guard David Nwaba (knee) has sat out two in a row.
ABOUT THE CELTICS (11-10): Boston looked much more like the team most expected to see in the win at New Orleans, and it happened to coincide with the first start of the year for Marcus Smart, who replaced Jaylen Brown (back) in the first five. “I think the unit that we had out there today, we really had that mindset going that we wanted to start off the game and have a defensive presence,” Irving told reporters. “Marcus on the ball took some of that pressure off me, being off the ball as well offensively and defensively.” This sets up a debate over whether Brown, who is shooting 39.8 percent from the floor and 25.3 percent from 3-point range, should return to the starting lineup once healthy.
1. Irving had five steals at New Orleans and is averaging 2.8 over his last 11 games.
2. Cleveland G Jordan Clarkson scored a season-high 25 points in Wednesday’s loss and has hit the 20-point mark in four of his last eight games.
3. This marks the first meeting since the Cavaliers ousted the Celtics in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals last spring.