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Maybe this is what the Boston Celtics need or maybe not. The defending NBA champions looked prettier than a perfectly wrapped Christmas present at 27-2, as they prepared for Dec. 25 date with the Lakers in Los Angeles.



2009-01-09

Maybe this is what the Boston Celtics need or maybe not. The defending NBA champions looked prettier than a perfectly wrapped Christmas present at 27-2, as they prepared for Dec. 25 date with the Lakers in Los Angeles. Since losing that game 92-83, Boston is 2-6, with a matching spread record and looks like the Christmas tree that has been left by the curb, dry, thinned out and ready to be picked up by the garbage men. As the Celtics prepare to take on Eastern Conference leader Cleveland on the road, the question remains, what happened?
It's our defense," said Paul Pierce, explaining the team's recent slump. "Teams are way too comfortable when they go up against us now. We're missing assignments. One person can mess up the whole five, so we all have to get back on the same page."

Coach Doc Rivers agrees wholeheartedly.

"I told our guys that you can't put yourselves in the position where you have to make shots," he said. "If you play defense all game, those shots aren't as important. The game changes when it's a one-point game."

Boston can expect no sympathy from Cleveland (28-6, 24-10 ATS), who they eliminated last May in the Eastern Conference playoffs and defeated 90-85 in Beantown back in late October. "We know it is not just another game," LeBron James said after practice on Thursday. "We're looking forward to the challenge."
Cleveland is playing fantastic basketball, especially at home, where they are 18-0 and 14-4 ATS at Quicken Loans Arena. If the Cavs are feeling a little cavalier about their play at home, they should be, winning by 16.6 points per game, easily the best in the league. Cleveland is off a 30-point blowout of Charlotte two nights ago, when they shot 60 percent and are 17-3 ATS in home games after scoring 60 points or more in the first half last game.

They got us up there," Cavs guard Mo Williams said. "It's our turn. It's payback time."

Maybe it's just the slump, but another area of concern for Boston (29-8, 19-18 ATS) is their bench. Most veteran observers of the NBA believe they need another scorer, preferably from a wing position, since they mostly have players like Glen Davis and Leon Powe who are better in the paint.

Cleveland is listed as four-point favorite at Sportsbook.com, with a total of 183. The Celtics are 10-1 ATS as an underdog of 3.5 to 9.5 points over the last two seasons. Coach Rivers hopes the Cavs are the recipe to shake his team's lethargy. "That's not a bad test for us," Rivers said. "It's going to be a tough game. They're playing unbelievable basketball. Maybe it will be something to get us going. Who knows?"
Including last year's postseason, Cleveland has beaten Boston nine times in a row at home (7-2 ATS), with the C's last win coming on Dec.18, 2004. Even with its 18-7 ATS record when playing against a top-level team (Win percentage of 70 percent or higher) since Kevin Garnett arrived, this will test the mettle of team not playing their best basketball in a hostile environment.

The total has been about 50-50 when these two clubs get together, nevertheless, certain aspects point towards one direction. Boston is 24-12 UNDER when playing their third game in four days and Cleveland is 27-12 UNDER after a blowout win by 15 points or more over the last three seasons.

It promises to be an entertaining, highly charged environment on ESPN starting at 8 Eastern, with LeBron and mates trying to put the Celts in a pillory for public scorn.
StatFox Power Line Cleveland by 5


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