NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics Preview

Kevin LoveIt’s deja vu for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics, who will play their second game in three days today as part of a weekend home-and-home series (3pm ET, Sunday).

After defeating the short-handed Cavs in Cleveland on Friday night by a score of 99-90, the Celtics return to TD Garden in Massachusetts for the back end of the series and just the third remaining game on their regular season schedule.

Cleveland to Rest their Starters

After missing the playoffs last year for the first time since the 2006-07 season, the Celtics are closing in on a return to the postseason this year. They currently have a lead over the Miami Heat making their destiny in their own hands. Simply put, if the Celtics keep winning, they’ll be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.

Fortunately enough for Boston, Cleveland has nothing to play for. They have already guaranteed the second seed in the Eastern Conference, which is the best they can do. As a result, they’ve been resting their players. A prime example is the Friday’s Celtics/Cavs game in which top stars Kevin Love (pictured) and LeBron James, each played minimal minutes and Kyrie Irving was a late scratch.

If the Cavaliers continue to limit the minutes of their top guys, which it seems they will, the Celtics have a pretty decent shot to get the win just like they did on Friday.

Fresh New Faces to Lead the Way for Boston

In Friday night’s game, Evan Turner had a career best 13 assists and despite only scoring four points, was crucial in the Celtics’ win. Also coming up big was this year’s first round draft choice Marcus Smart, who put up his biggest point total (19) since mid-March.

Needless to say, this is not your father’s Celtics team. There’s no Bill Walton or Larry Bird. Heck, there’s not even a Ray Allen, Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett. Doc Rivers has left to coach the Clippers in LA and the only remaining holdout from the 2008 World Championship winning team at the start of the year was Rajon Rondo, who is now a member of the Dallas Mavericks.

There are really no superstars on this team, just a bunch of young upstarts. But over the past few months, this young roster has accomplished a lot, including going 21-12 since the beginning of February.

Isaiah Thomas is currently the team’s leading scorer with just over 19 points a game. But he isn’t the only one to average double digits.  Six players currently have over 10 points, including four of the five starters and Jeff Green (17.6 PPG) who is now a member of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics Betting Picks

LeBron James has said that he is likely going to sit out the entire game in preparation for the upcoming playoffs. On paper, this would seem like a good thing for the Celtics, but is it?

The Celtics have actually played some of their worst games this year when facing teams without their top scorers. They dropped a March contest against a Heat team without Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside and were crushed by an Oklahoma City Thunder team that was without the services of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

So be on the lookout for a potential letdown from Boston. That is of course if it is only James who misses the game. I would favor the Cavs in that case. If however, both Irving and Love also sit out, which is possible, one would have to think the Celtics are favored.

Unfortunately you can’t bet based on who might take the floor however, so here is something else to consider.

The Cavaliers are a great three point-shooting team, ranked second in the league in threes attempted and fourth in threes made. Boston on the other hand, is about middle of the pack when it comes to defending the deep ball. But the Celtics have been better lately and if the game is close, this could come into play.

Boston hasn’t exactly been great at home this year and even if the Cavaliers aren’t at full capacity, I have to pick Cleveland to get the win in this one. They have a solid bench beyond just the Big Three and their role players have been consistent all year. Their roster was built well that way and it is shown with the 51 wins the team has this season.