1. The Celtics were insanely good from behind the arc in their previous matchup against Cleveland. Should we expect to see more of the same?
Chris Manning, Right Down Euclid EIC: Earl Clark starting. combined with Boston just being insanely on in the first meeting, will limit how well Boston preforms from behind the arc. Earl Clark, assuming he starts and plays more than the 18 minutes against the Hawks, is the best suited to do an above average job defending Jeff Green on the wing. There is also no way Avery Bradley goes 9-11 from the field and 3-4 from behind the arc like he did in the first matchup. As a whole, the Celtics performed way above their abilities in the first matchup between these teams and they come down to Earth in this one, as starting Clark and some other small adjustments help the Cavaliers contain the Celtics from deep.
Trevor Magnotti, RDE Staff Writer: I’m not so sure Boston will be as effective from three as they were in round one of this series. The Celtics are 15th in the league in three-point shooting, and the players they rely on most are Jordan Crawford, Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, and Jared Sullinger. This is a team that can get hot from there, but on the whole they are an average shooting team. I think things will go a little better this time defending the three for Cleveland, because Earl Clark will likely play more minutes on Jeff Green, which should limit him, and the way Waiters has been playing lately, he shouldn’t have much issue checking Crawford. I think if the Celtics shoot 33 percent or less from three as a team, the Cavs will be well off.
Jack Maloney, Saving the Skyhook EIC: In the first meeting of the year between these squads, the Celtics went 11-23 (47.8 percent) from three, and there’s little chance that happens again. On the year the C’s are middle of the road team from downtown, shooting a hair over 35 percent from on about 18 three-point attempts per night. Of course there’s a chance they could get hot again, but it’s extremely unlikely the Celtics have a night like they did last time these two teams met.
2. Who has better hair: Kelly Olynyk or Anderson Varejao?
CM: How is the winner not Varejao? His curly locks have donned an afro night and it’s a sight to watch his hair bob and weave as he runs down the floor. Olynyk has a nice 1970s style flow going on, but it’s just no Varejao afro. The Wild Thing takes the cake here.
TM: The real shame here is that both players wear headbands, which doesn’t allow either players’ hair to truly shine. However, Olynyk is my victor here. Varejao has the curls you would kill for, but Olynyk’s can actually potentially be used as a weapon. Look at the radius that flow reaches! Ain’t nobody gonna be hitting him in the face on a drive, for fear of getting a mouthful of hair. Advantage: Oly\m/yk.
JM: Neither? To be honest, I’m not a fan of either of these two’s hair styles. Olynyk’s just looks gross, while Varejao has the Side Show Bob look going on. I guess I’ll go with Varejao, but there’s no real winner in this match-up.
3. Steezus has risen! What happened to Jordan Crawford to make him into a somewhat effective player this season?
CM: If you plug in Jordan Crawford, Kyrie Irving and John Wall all into the same Basketball Reference player comparison tool, Steezus comes out statistically head. And yes, you read that right. He’s been a controlled player thus far and I think it’s largely because of Brad Stevens. The coach has installed a definitive new culture into a Celtics team expected to be horrible and made them a likely playoff team. Stevens has made Crawford mature, making him a weapon with real skills. It’s hard to imagine him being as effective under another coach.
TM: This has perhaps been the most underrated transformation for a player in the league this season. Everyone talks about Miles Plumlee and Lance Stephenson for Most Improved Player recognition, which is well-deserved. However, Crawford’s shooting has gone from J.R. Smith-levels of hilarious to an actual threat for the C’s offense. His FG% has improved from 41.5 percent to 43.4 percent. He’s hitting slightly better from three. His TS% has gone from a very average 51.4 percent to a quite effective 54.6 percent. His shot selection has also improved. Crawford looks like he’s really matured this season, and it’s turned him from a patron saint of chucking to a quite effective cog on a surprising team.
JM: Brad Stevens happened. Given the reigns to the first team offense in Rondo’s absence, Crawford is having by far the best season of his young career (even if he has struggled a bit in his last five games). It’s hard – especially without being in the locker room every day – to measure the exact affect Stevens has had on Crawford, but there has certainly been a dramatic change in Crawford’s play, and a big part of that can be attributed to Stevens.
4. Last year there was some fuss after a Celtics-Cavs match-up because Avery Bradley was upset with his defense against Kyrie Irving. This will be a key match-up again on Saturday. Who will get the better of the matchup, and why?
CM: At this best, Irving is more than capable of scoring on anyone defending him in the NBA. Bradley, though, is an expert pick and roll defender who might be the best on-ball defender at the point guard position not named Chris Paul. Still, if Irving gets going, no one will be able to slow him down. If you limit his dribbling and lane penetration, he’ll just scorch you from the outside. If you come up into his grill and play him close, he will just cross you off, put the jets on and get to rim before you can say Matthew Dellavedova. Bradley will do well at times, but on the whole, Irving gets the better of the matchup. Bradley will have to score similarly to how he did in the first game, as well as limit Irving to sub 50 percent shooting in order to be the victor in his matchup.
TM: If Kyrie carries over his performance from Thursday night to Saturday, it doesn’t matter who’s guarding him. Kyrie had 40 points, 9 assists, and 4 steals in the double-OT game and in overtime especially, Jeff Teague couldn’t do anything to stop him. Teague’s not as good a defender as Bradley is, but he’s still pretty decent, and Kyrie shredded him. I think if Bradley’s going to play better than Kyrie, he needs to get hot from three and play the best defense he can. He can definitely do this, but I’m not sure that he’s going to be able to keep Kyrie in check for an entire game. And when Bradley sits, and it’s Steez or Phil Pressey guarding Kyrie? Watch out.
JM: In the first meeting of the year, Irving didn’t play terrible, but he scored just 17 points on 7-16 shooting. If Bradley can hold him to another performance like that, the Celtics have a great chance of winning. However, if Irving goes off like he did last night against the Hawks, the Celtics will be in for a long night. I think in the end it falls somewhere in the middle. Bradley won’t let Irving drop a 40 spot, and that should be good enough to at least keep the Celtics in the game.