The Trifecta: Celtics vs. Cavs

Cleveland Cavaliers J.J. Hickson, left, slam dunks against Ray Allen during the third quarter against the Boston Celtics in game 2 of the second round of the NBA Playoffs in Cleveland on May 3, 2010. UPI/David Richard Photo via Newscom

One game down, and 81 more to go.

The Celtics will visit the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight in their first back-to-back of the season. Obviously this matchup has lost some of its luster, but the Celtics should be wary of letting the Cavs sneak up on them. Its not like Cleveland is a team totally devoid of talent, it just doesn’t have one superstar any more. The closest thing to it, in fact, is Antawn Jamison, and he isn’t even a starter. Go figure.

Still, you might recall that the Celtics had some trouble against bad teams last year, droppin games to the New Jersey Nets and getting blown out at home by the Washington Wizards. That is a trend that cannot continue this season. With that, here’s what to watch out for tonight.

1) Hangover Effect: Last night’s game with Miami was obviously an emotional affair, and it ended up being closer than it looked like it would be at the beginning. This game will be a complete 180 of that contest, and don’t be surprised if the Celtics suffer through a sluggish start.

The optimal outcome would see the Celtics coming out in authoritative fashion early, but that might not be the case. If they struggle in the first quarter, chalk it up to a drop in the level of competition and a difference in atmosphere leaving the C’s lacking a bit.

2) Paul Pierce: Well, he certainly looked alright when he came back from the locker room last night, but it is not a good sign that he already had injury troubles in the first game of the year.

Remember, the small forward spot is the weakest on this team. The Celtics have one player—Marquis Daniels—behind Pierce. If he went down for any stretch they could not replace his offense in any way, shape or form. He is indispensable, so the team must monitor him and make sure he is healthy. We’ll know tonight if he has any lingering effects from that fall.

3) Rebounding: The Celtics won the battle of the boards last night 42-39, but it was a little too close for comfort. Joel Anthony pulled down seven boards early and Miami had 11 offensive rebounds on the night. For a team devoid of a solid big man, that is not going to cut it.

This Cavs team has a number of solid rebounders, including budding star J.J. Hickson, the aforementioned Jamison, frequent thorn in the Celtics’ side Anderson Varejao, and old friend Leon Powe. The Celtics will need to hit the glass hard if they want to control this game, and as I’ve mentioned before it is something that should be kept an eye on all season.

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Tags: Anderson Varejao Antawn Jamison Boston Celtics Cleveland Cavaliers J.J. Hickson Lebron James Leon Powe Marquis Daniels Paul Pierce

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