Boston at Cleveland
When: 8:00 PM ET, Thursday, December 29, 2016
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland
CLEVELAND – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by Sports Xchange) – The Boston Celtics own the third-best record in the Eastern Conference and believe they can contend with anyone when the roster is healthy. The Celtics will get a chance to prove that when they visit the defending-champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.
Boston won six of its last seven games and is coming off a 113-103 triumph over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday but insists it is not trying to measure itself against Cleveland or any other team. “We don’t really care about what they’re doing and I know they don’t care about what we’re doing,” Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas told ESPN.com of the Cavaliers. “We’re just trying to focus on us and getting better each and every day, and we’ve done that the past seven games. With a healthy squad, we’re a pretty good team.” Cleveland is not fully healthy with J.R. Smith (thumb) out but should have its full complement of stars available after giving LeBron James the night off at Detroit on Monday, the day after a one-point win over the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day. The Cavaliers were not quite as sharp with their best player on the sideline and suffered a 106-90 setback at the Pistons to snap a five-game winning streak.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, FSN Ohio (Cleveland)
ABOUT THE CELTICS (19-13): Thomas is always ready to take over a game in the fourth quarter for Boston, but the team is getting strong contributions from several other players of late and added another on Tuesday when seldom-used swingman Gerald Green came off the bench to score 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting in 19 minutes. Green logged a total of 18 minutes in 18 games before scoring eight points in 12 minutes at New York on Christmas Day and earning himself a longer look on Tuesday. “(Green) can help us, really,” Thomas told reporters. “Coach is pointing in his direction, and he took advantage of his opportunity the last few games that he’s played. What he did today, that’s what he does. I mean, he comes off the bench and gives a spark, and he gives us energy.”
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (23-7): James, who leads Cleveland in scoring (25.5 points), assists (8.6) and steals (1.4), will continue to sit out whenever coach Tyronn Lue deems it necessary to keep the superstar playing at a high level deep into the spring. James recorded 30 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds in a 128-122 win at home over Boston on Nov. 3 and was due for a rest after averaging 38.1 minutes in 12 games this month. Fellow All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving both rested earlier this month to give nagging injuries a chance to heal and were a combined 14-of-34 from the field in Monday’s loss.
1. Thomas scored 20 or more points in each of the last 16 games – the longest current streak of 20-point efforts in the NBA.
2. Cavaliers veteran SG Mike Dunleavy is fighting for rotation time and making the best of his opportunities by going 7-of-13 from 3-point range in his last five appearances.
3. Boston split a pair of trips to Cleveland last season.