In a battle between intra-conference foes, the Boston Celtics will battle the Cleveland Cavaliers. Although Cleveland is all but eliminated from postseason contention, Boston is in need of a win for the sake of their positioning.
So how will it all transpire?
Boston enters this game with a record of 36-34 overall and 12-23 on the road. They've also lost five games in a row, which displays their need for a momentum-building victory.
As for Cleveland, they're 22-47 on the season and 13-21 at home. While the postseason is out of the picture, the Cavaliers would make tremendous strides in the right direction by earning a win for their young players.
It's youth against experience in this Eastern Conference battle.
Time: Wednesday, March 27 at 7:00 p.m. EDT
TV: CSN New England & Fox Sports Ohio
Records: Boston Celtics (36-34, 12-23 road) at Cleveland Cavaliers (22-47, 13-21 home)
Betting Line: N/A
Boston Celtics Injury Report
Courtney Lee, Sprained Ankle, Doubtful
Rajon Rondo, Partially Torn ACL, Out
Jared Sullinger, Two Herniated Discs, Out
Cleveland Cavaliers Injury Report
Kyrie Irving, Sprained Left Shoulder, Out
Anderson Varejao, Blood Clot, Out
Dion Waiters, Knee Soreness, Doubtful
Key Storyline: Fighting for Position
The Boston Celtics are in need of a win to improve their positioning in the Eastern Conference playoff structure. The Cleveland Cavaliers understand that every win or loss could hurt or help their positioning in the upcoming 2013 NBA Draft.
Just don't think pride is going to be absent from this one—both teams want to win.
The higher the Cavaliers finish this season, the better their morale will be entering the offseason. Keep in mind, this is a young team with their three core players all 22 years old or younger.
Even if achieving better draft position would require Cleveland to lose, progression comes with effort.
You can guess which the Celtics would prefer.
Key Matchup: Brandon Bass vs. Tristan Thompson
If there is one area in which the Cleveland Cavaliers hold an advantage, it's at power forward. This is not to sell Brandon Bass' efforts short, but instead to praise the rapidly developing Tristan Thompson.
Between his tenacious rebounding and improving offensive prowess, Thompson will make life difficult for Bass defensively.
Thompson has been sensational on the glass, specifically on the offensive end. Considering the Celtics are 21st in offensive rebounds allowed per game, this presents a matchup issue.
It's on Bass to keep Thompson off of the boards.
On the other end, Bass must be able to spread the floor for his slashing teammates. Thompson is not a prolific shot-blocker, but he's a capable defender whose power enables him to alter shots.
Bass' ability to work the mid-range game could help determine this outcome.
X-Factor: Wayne Ellington, Cleveland Cavaliers
For the Cleveland Cavaliers to pull out this upset, they will need to overcome the Boston Celtics' one-man wrecking crew in Avery Bradley. To do so, Cleveland will need to space the floor with their shooting.
That task rests upon the shoulders of Wayne Ellington.
For the season, Ellington is shooting 40.9 percent from beyond the arc. He's the only active player on the Cavaliers' roster that is able to make that claim.
The only other qualified player is the injured Kyrie Irving.
With this in mind, it's imperative that Ellington becomes a reliable perimeter option with his jump shooting. This will allow Cleveland to work it inside and attack Boston's mediocre interior defense.
Ellington catching fire is the only way for Cleveland to exploit their size advantage.
When the Boston Celtics travel to play the Cleveland Cavaliers, they will be desperate for a victory. They've lost five consecutive games, can't seem to piece it together on the road and are dropping down the Eastern Conference standings.
Who will win?
This is as big of a must-win game as you'll find.
Cleveland will give Boston a fight, even in the absence of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. When it comes down to it, however, the Cavaliers just will not have the personnel necessary to take down the Celtics.
Not when Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett see what's at stake.
Pierce will provide the scoring punch, while KG will counter Cleveland's size with his veteran prowess. By limiting mid-range scoring opportunities for Marreese Speights, Garnett will eliminate a key piece of Cleveland's offense.
Avery Bradley's smothering defense will be just enough for Boston to survive a scare in Cleveland.
Boston Celtics 92, Cleveland Cavaliers 87