By Patrick Whalen
The Celtics have been on an absolute tear lately as they have won 4 straight games and are 7-0 at the Garden in 2019 winning by an average of 17.8 points at home this year. Last night they got to take on the worst team in the NBA in the Cleveland as the Cavs enetered tonight at 9-39 on the season. But the Celtics would be without their two hottest players as Kyrie Irving was delcared out with an illness and Al Horford got a rest day. This meant of course Brad would have to mix up the lineup with two of his stars out. Stevens decided to go with Terry Rozier and Aron Baynes to go along with his other usual starters of Tatum, Morris, and Smart. The Cavs meanwhile were missing most of their veteran presence out on the floor as John Henson, Kevin Love, Larry Nance, David Nwaba, and Tristan Thompson were all sidelined due to injuries. Also J.R. Smith is still away from the team as he is still looking to be traded.
The Cavs actually jumped out early on the Celtics in the first quarter as they led 30-27 after one. But it could have been much worse for Boston if Terry Rozier didn’t step up and keep it close. Rozier did his best Kyrie impersenation in the first quarter by scoring 16 of the Celtics 27 points including the first 8.
Rozier ended up finishing with 26 points on 9-13 shooting. Rozier also had 6 assists and 8 rebounds to go with the 26 points. Terry would also finish off a great Celtics second quater where they outscored the Cavs by 18 to take a 65-50 halftime lead.
The Celtics also had another young star step up in Jaylen Brown. Brown went for 23 points on 8-12 shooting with 6 rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench. Gordon Hayward also stepped up off the bench with his fellow stars out. Hayward had 18 points on 6-10 shooting with 5 rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench. The Celtics even got a surprise bench performance from Brad Wanamaker who saw extended minutes with Irving out. In 20 minutes Wanamaker scored 11 points for his second double digit scoring game this month. He seems to be getting much more comfortable with his teammates during his frist season with the Celtics and if he could develop into a better version of what Shane Larkin was last year he could become a weapon for Brad off the bench.
With all these great bench performances in their stars absence the Celtics were able to still get the job done at home against the Cavs. Cleveland did cut the lead down to 12 at the end of the third but thanks to Tatum and Morris still having their average night the Celtics were able to pull away in the fourth for a 123-103 win. Tatum still had 15 points and Morris still had 11 points despite below average shooting nights. Tatum was also still making highlights with this steal and dunk.
The Cavs young squad did put up a fight against the superior Celtics. Cedi Osman had 25 points and 8 rebounds, former Celtic Ante Zizic had 19 points and 8 rebounds, and the young rookie Collin Sexton had 16 points and 6 rebounds. But the young squad did show its youth with 20 turnovers including 12 steals by the Celtics. The Celtics were also able to hold the young Cavs to just 43.7% shooting from the floor while the Celtics were shooting at 52.3% for the night. Overall despite lacking Irving and Horford the Celtics handled their business to get win number 30 on the season.
With the win the Celtics are now 30-18 on the season and now trail the Bucks and Raptors by 5 games for the top spot in the eastern conference. Up next the Celtics will have the toughest test of their season as the Golden State Warriors come to visit the Garden saturday night. The Celtics will need to limit the damage that the splash bros and Durant can do from deep. They will also need to limit the damage Durant and Boogie do down inside the paint. So basically the Celtics need to just not let the Warriors shoot. Good news is though that the Celtics will probably at full strength as Kyrie and Al were only listed as day-to-day. This group will need to come together and play their best brand of team basketball if they want a win Saturday night. The helpful thing at least is that they are playing at home where they are 8-0 in 2019 with an average margin of victory of 15.6 points. If the Celtics can pull off the win Saturday night it just may be the season shifting win these guys need to make them believe they are getting closer to the team everone thought they would be this year.
Also remember to keep voting for all your favorite Celtics players for this years All Star game. Kyrie was announced as an eastern conference starter but I feel like he would enjoy some company from his teammates in Charlotte. So remeber hit the link below and Vote, Vote, Vote!
Sources: Basketball-Reference.com, Rotoworld.com