BOSTON — The Boston Celtics have done pretty well against the Cleveland Cavaliers without Kyrie Irving in the past.
On Wednesday, the opposing faces will look a little different to Boston — the Cavaliers are without Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, and LeBron James (of course) is in Los Angeles. But for the Celtics, facing the Cavaliers short-handed — both Irving and Al Horford will sit — might feel familiar.
“That team is very capable,” Cavaliers coach Larry Drew said. “They’ve been minus players before, and they’ve played extremely well. We don’t take anything lightly. I think when you talk about a team that’s playing as well as they’re playing, with a guy out, it gives other guys opportunities to play. I don’t think they miss a beat to be perfectly honest. This team is playing extremely well, and certainly with Kyrie, they are at a different level. But they’re very, very, very talented.”
Irving has flu-like symptoms, while Horford is resting after a lengthy stint against the Miami Heat on Monday.
Brad Stevens said the luxury of a player like Terry Rozier is having someone ready to go when Irving needs a night off.
“I think the biggest thing is you know right there on nights like tonight that you’ve got a guy that you can turn to that you know has been there, done that,” Stevens said. “And then I thought he had a really good weekend on Friday and Saturday. I thought our whole bench struggled a little bit on Monday but that was a really tough game and we’re expecting another one tonight. And Terry’s presence on the ball defensively and his ability to get us into offense quickly is what we’re going to need from him. And he’s great at both of those things.”
More importantly, Stevens wants to hammer home the importance of taking the Cavaliers seriously, despite their league-worst 9-39 record, and their league-worst 117.2 defensive rating.
“We got smoked by these guys in the preseason twice because their guards went off on us,” Stevens said. “One of the things that we need to do is have great presence. We need to make sure that we’re great into the ball, that we’re making people earn everything, and, offensively, we’re a lot more disciplined and a lot more together than we were at that time. Now, in the last game we played a little bit better here but even then it’s 50-50 at the end of the first (half) and we go on a little run before half-time You’re going to have to play well to win in the NBA.”
Other pre-game notes:
– Brad Stevens is high on Cavaliers rookie Collin Sexton, who is shooting 38.9 from three.
“I think he’s really good,” Stevens said. “His ability to get downhill, play in transition, drive it both ways and finish. His shooting at 39 percent from 3 has really stood out because that was one of the things that I think people thought he had to work on a little bit. That’s a heck of a number for a rookie, especially with the shots that he takes, a lot of time he takes them off the dribble with the ball so he’s having a great rookie year. He puts a lot of pressure on the defense and he’s a competitor, you can tell that.”
– Stevens also believes Marcus Morris should be in the 3-point contest.
“He should be in it. I don’t think there’s any doubt. I mean, he’s shooting great, he deserves it, he makes tough ones, he makes them in a bunch of different ways. I think it would be great if he got a chance to participate in that. That’d be fun.”
– According to the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn, Jayson Tatum has been invited to participate in the Skills Challenge.
It will be interesting to see if Tatum participates if he doesn’t make the team.
– And finally, here’s a cant-miss story from Kevin Garnett about when Austin Rivers challenged him to a 1-on-1 game after a Celtics practice.
Kevin Garnett needs a fully unedited podcast as soon as possible.