Celtics at Cavaliers
The Boston Celtics have been a .500 team as they approach the halfway point of the NBA season - and that's not good enough for head coach Doc Rivers. With personnel changes a possibility, the Celtics look to end their first half on a high note - and halt a three-game losing skid - as they visit the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday. Boston is coming off a dismal 103-88 loss to the Detroit Pistons, a defeat that leaves the Celtics firmly entrenched in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Boston won't get any sympathy from the Cavaliers, who saw their slim chance at a second-half surge become even smaller after learning that Anderson Varejao is out for the season. The star center developed a blood clot after undergoing surgery for a torn leg muscle earlier this month. His loss is a blow to a Cleveland team that won just 10 games in the first half of the season and is coming off an uninspired 109-98 defeat at the hands of the Utah Jazz on Saturday.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, Comcast SportsNet New England (Boston), Fox Sports Ohio (Cleveland)
ABOUT THE CELTICS (20-20): Whether it's complacency, fatigue or some other cause, Rivers says his team's play has been unacceptable. "I gotta either find the right combination or the right guys, or we're going to get some guys out of here," he said following Sunday's loss to Detroit. "That's the bottom line. This group right now, they're not playing right. It's in them to play right. But right now they haven't been either because I'm not getting to them, or they're not getting to each other." Poor rebounding has been one of the main culprits for Boston's slow start to the season, with the club ranked second-to-last in the league at 38.9 per game. They were trounced 50-42 on the boards by Detroit.
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (10-32): Few teams could afford to lose a player like Varejao, let alone one of the league's doormats. The 30-year-old big man was enjoying the finest season of his career, averaging a career-best 14.1 points while leading the NBA with 14.4 rebounds. "Losing him (to surgery) already was bad enough for us," point guard Kyrie Irving told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "The news got worse (Monday). We wish him the best. We're all going to be there for him morale-wise, just try to be there for him as best as we can as teammates. That's all we can do right now." Second-year power forward Tristan Thompson will see the biggest bump in minutes the rest of the way.
1. The Celtics prevailed 103-91 in their previous meeting Dec. 19.
2. Boston PG Rajon Rondo averages 10.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in 20 career games against the Cavaliers.
3. Thompson has stepped up in Varejao's absence, averaging 14.1 points and 11.9 rebounds in 10 January games.
PREDICTION: Celtics 90, Cavaliers 86.