Tip: 7:00 PM Court: Quicken Loans Arena Watch it: CSN Hear it: WEEI
Referees: Jason Phillips, Nick Buchert, Leon Wood
The Celtics narrowly avoided back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Cavs despite being outscored 32-17 in the 4th quarter. Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 20 points. Rajon Rondo missed the game due to a wrist injury.
Get it to: Rajon Rondo
Ok, kid, how are you going to respond. You've been hammered all over the place by fans looking for a scapegoat for the Celtics' struggles. You've been publicly embarrassed by your own actions. And you're facing a kid that's being hyped as the NBA's next big thing.
This is a defining game for you and the Celtics. Lose the Cavs after the All Star break and we can pretty much chalk this season up as a disappointing loss. It's also a defining game for you. If this is truly going to be your team, you have to lead it now.
Your move, Rajon.
Gotta stop: Kyrie Irving
The kid has the Cavs a game and a half away from a playoff spot. He's going to be the rookie of the year and a perennial All Star if he keeps it up. And this assignment also falls on Rondo. The key stat here: in wins, Irving is shooting 54%. In losses, he's shooting 43%. Frustrate him, get up on him, and keep him from getting in the paint. Make it so he can't carry his team to a win.
The Wild Card: Anderson Varejao
He torched the C's for his first ever 20/20 game the last time out. He's a killer offensive rebounder and the most annoying defender on the floor at all times. Keep him off the damn boards and this will be an easy win. Get decimated by him again and we're looking at another struggle.
How we see it goin' down
I'll repeat this: this is a defining game for the 2011-2012 Boston Celtics. They are as rested as they're going to be all season long. They are coming off a horribly disappointing first half of the season. And Kevin Garnett laid down the law before the break.
In an admittedly more hopeful than reasonable analysis, I expect a positive response. It will help greatly that Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox are playing because at least then the Celtics can get into a more regular rotation (though Jermaine O'Neal is out). But I expect the Celtics to come out with fire and intensity and build a big lead.
Of course, they'll let up out of habit (or when the bench comes in), but I expect them to pour it on in the end, and I expect the post-game headlines to read something about a statement being made.