The Boston Celtics are playing now with a new found poise and confidence, since they have encountered some of the leagues best and almost beat them. Maybe it’s just a hangover from a pair of amazing battles with the two best teams in the NBA? But the young Boston team truly has started to believe in itself and that they are now capable of competing with anyone in the league.
On Saturday, in their win in Charlotte, Boston was very composed at the end of the game, looking like they deserved the win. They remained calm as the Hornets, who won four straight games and are lingering near the top of the Eastern conferernce, made a late-game charge, Boston never stood down. This was a team that struggled to win close games at the beginning of the season, now they are a team playing like they know they can pull out of any game out and find a way to steal it. Their last games against Golden State and Charlottle, followed by tonight’s Cleveland games, meant the Celtics needed to dig deep and find a way to get points.
And that’s exactly what they did, taking the reigning NBA champions to double overtime before falling just short last Friday night. They are hoping to take that momentum when they host the other NBA finalists tonight. The bounce back from that loss to the Warriors, lead to a confident win against Charlotte on Saturday. With twi days off, they will have time to cool down a bit and will welcome the Cleveland Cavaliers at home on Tuesday.
These two teams have history. The Cavaliers began their playoff run last spring by sweeping Boston in the first round. So that should provide extra motivation for Boston. The Cavs are playing strong with LeBron at the helm, kicking off a two-game road trip with a spectaular win, arguable one of the most impressive victories of the season, when they crushed Orlando 111-76 on Friday.
“I just thought we played a full game, from the very beginning, all the way throughout,” Cleveland coach David Blatt told media after seeing his team shoot 56.9 percent from the field. The Cavs’ coach knows though that Boston is emerging as much larger threat to the Cavaliers than they were last year, and that everyone should be impressed with their effort in Charlotte, after the tough loss to the Warriors. “(Friday) was an emotional loss, whether we want to act like it or not,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “So to come back and play that way (Saturday) and get a win on the road against a really good team is a heck of a night.”
The Cavs are 15-7, and are closer to full strength with the return of guard Iman Shumpert who had injured his wrist on Friday. The team is still taking things slowly with Kyrie Irving who has an unspecified knee injury. The star point guard is currently practicing with the team. He has told media that he feels stronger but he’s not expected to make his season debut tonight. “We’d like him to work a few more days in practice,” Blatt told reporters about Irving, who averaged 23.3 points, five rebounds and 4.3 assists against Boston in the playoffs last year.
The Celts are 14-10 and they are looking better than their record. The team had 2 chances to win Friday night’s game at the end of regulation and overtime, but came up short. That’s not a bad thing though since they know now that they can take it the distance. Guard Isaiah Thomas, bounced back with 21 points and 13 assists in the 99-93 triumph over the Hornets. He posted his second straight double-double. “That’s one of my favorite things about Isaiah,” Stevens told reporters. “He really cares about winning and losing. He’s not down necessarily because of anything else, other than he wanted to make a shot to help us beat Golden State. The guy really cares.”
Our Pick: Celtics over Cavaliers, 105-101