The Boston Celtics head into Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on the second leg of a back-to-back Tuesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, trying to avoid a three-game losing streak.
Boston coughed up an 18-point, fourth-quarter lead Tuesday before being outscored in overtime by the Brooklyn Nets, 11-2, in a 129-120 loss. The Celtics gave up 37 of Caris LeVert’s 51 points in the final period and extra frame.
“I wouldn’t say that [the Celtics let up down the stretch but coach] Brad [Stevens] definitely said we did,” Kemba Walker told Boston.com after the game. “[The Nets], they ramped it up. Obviously, LeVert, he was hot, he was making everything. It was an unbelievable performance by him.”
Brooklyn’s comeback win marked Boston’s second consecutive loss after suffering another overtime setback Saturday against Houston, 111-110.
The Celtics surrendered 41 points to Rockets All-Star Russell Westbrook in that one, Boston’s first home game after a 3-1 Western Conference road swing.
Boston was without Walker against Houston, the last of five games missed after the All-Star break due to a sore knee. He returned Tuesday to score 21 points in the loss to Brooklyn, but will not make the trip to Cleveland on Wednesday, per the Boston Globe.
The Celtics will also be without Jayson Tatum, who missed Tuesday’s loss due to illness. The Boston Globe also reported Gordon Hayward spoke of soreness after playing just 17 minutes on Tuesday, and Jaylen Brown favored his right hamstring.
With Marcus Smart facing a possible suspension for his post-game altercation with officials, Boston could be severely depleted against the Eastern Conference’s last-place team.
But while the Celtics seek to avoid their third three-game losing streak in the calendar year 2020 — and to complete the season sweep of the Cavaliers — Cleveland comes into Wednesday’s matchup riding a three-game skid of its own.
The Cavaliers lost on Monday to Utah, 126-113. The defeat dropped Cleveland one game behind Atlanta for the East’s worst record.
Cleveland surged to 3-1 after the All-Star break under J.B. Bickerstaff, who replaced embattled first-year coach John Beilein. Beilein announced his resignation Feb. 19 after a contentious few months on the job.
The Cavaliers’ initial success under Bickerstaff included wins over Miami and Philadelphia, two teams in the hunt for first-round home-court advantages in the NBA Playoffs.
Despite the losing streak, Cleveland has seen positives from second-year guard Collin Sexton. On Monday, he broke the career-high of 31 points he set just three days prior to New Orleans scoring 32 points against the Jazz.
“He had a great overall game,” Bickerstaff said of Sexton following Monday’s loss. “He scored when the opportunity presented itself, then he made the right play when he had to. Defensively, he battled, too.”
At 20.2 points per game, Sexton leads a Cavaliers team that heads into Wednesday’s matchup with injury-ravaged Boston facing a rash of its own maladies.
Cleveland played with Andre Drummond, Tristan Thompson, Darius Garland, Alfonzo McKinnie and Dante Exum on Monday. Just nine Cavaliers suited up in the loss.
–Field Level Media