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Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

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Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers and playoff-bound Boston Celtics will face off on Friday night, less than two weeks after Jeff Green beat the buzzer in Cleveland to give the C's a 2-1 lead in the regular-season series.

Friday's matchup in Beantown marks the fourth and final meeting this season between the two Eastern Conference foes. The teams will meet at TD Garden for the first time since December, when the Celtics won comfortably by 12 points in front of their home crowd.

Expect a supercharged sea of green again on Friday as the Celtics look to make it two wins in a row  to improve their playoff position with less than two weeks left in the regular season.

Here we'll get you set with everything you need to know for Friday's under-the-radar clash in Boston.

 

Where: TD Garden in Boston

When: Friday, April 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET

Watch: CSNN

Live Streaming: NBA League Pass (paid subscription required)

Betting Line: TBA

 

Key Injuries (according to USA Today)

Cleveland Cavaliers:

Dion Waiters (knee), out indefinitely

Anderson Varejao (lung), out for season

 

Boston Celtics:

Kevin Garnett (ankle), probable

Paul Pierce (ankle), questionable

Jared Sullinger (back), out for season

Rajon Rondo (knee), out for season

 

Cavaliers Player to Watch: Wayne Ellington

Jason Miller/Getty Images

Cleveland shooting guard Wayne Ellington will be the player to watch for the visiting Cavs on Friday. The former North Carolina Tar Heel came over from Memphis back in January and led all Cleveland scorers with 16 points against the Boston Celtics on March 27.

Ellington's deep range and ability to score from almost anywhere on the court makes him a huge offensive threat, especially against a defensive-minded squad like the Celtics.

Although Ellington boasts a career scoring average of just 6.8 points per game, he's averaging a career-best 10.4 points per game since joining the Cavaliers last winter. Alongside Kyrie Irving, Ellington is another capable scorer who will need to show up for Cleveland against a tough playoff-caliber opponent in Boston.

 

Celtics Player to Watch: Paul Pierce

There's a chance that Paul Pierce doesn't suit up on Friday night considering his nagging left ankle (h/t Celtics' official Twitter account), and Boston will be in big trouble if he can't.

But given that Pierce is a gamer and a player who doesn't rely on athleticism to be great, look for him to lead the Celtics onto the court against Cleveland. Pierce has had his way against the Cavaliers this season, averaging 23.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game in three matchups. He dropped 40 in the two teams' first meeting last December.

He's also shooting 49 percent from the floor and 50 percent from beyond the arc against the Cavs this year.

Outside of Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett, no other Celtic is even averaging more than 12 points per game against the Cavaliers this year, so Pierce's presence will be huge for the home team on Friday. 

If he's in the lineup, he'll be the player to watch for the C's as they look to chase down Chicago for the No. 6 spot in the East. 

 

Key Matchup: Getting to the Foul Line

USA TODAY Sports

Whichever team has more luck getting to the free-throw line on Friday night will likely come away with the win. 

In the last meeting between these two teams in Cleveland, the Celtics shot twice as many free throws (28) as the Cavaliers (14) and finished plus-11 at the foul line in a game that was decided by just one point. In Boston's other win, the Celtics attempted six more free throws than Cleveland and finished plus-six at the foul line.

Meanwhile, in Cleveland's only win against Boston this season, the Cavaliers managed to take and make exactly as many free throws as the Celtics, with each team 19-for-22 at the line. 

How far will the Boston Celtics go this postseason?

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Both teams rank middle-of-the-pack when it comes to getting to the foul line, but Boston has earned 20 more free throws than Cleveland in three meetings this season, meaning the Celtics will have the edge in this key area at home on Friday.

 

Prediction

Yes, the Celtics sport a lackluster 3-7 record over their last 10 games, but the Cavaliers have been even worse, riding a 10-game losing streak into TD Garden this weekend.

Boston boasts a solid home record this year (26-11 at home) and will be taking on a Cleveland team that has won just nine games away from home all season long; the Cavs haven't won on the road since Feb. 26 at Chicago.

If Paul Pierce can play and deliver another 20-point effort for the Celtics, Boston looks set to win its 40th game of the season on Friday and conclude the year 3-1 against the struggling Cavs.

Celtics 96, Cavaliers 91

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

Follow _Pat_Clarke on Twitter

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