Celtics-Cavs preview: Bad blood from last meeting?


WALTHAM, Mass. – Kevin Love storming off the court, pain shooting up his shoulder unlike anything he had ever felt after getting tangled up with Kelly Olynyk.

Jae Crowder drops to his knees after being hit in the face by J.R. Smith, continues to fall backwards in what’s eventually diagnosed as a sprained left knee injury.

It’s hard to imagine those events, both of which occurred the last time Cleveland set foot on the TD Garden floor, won’t come to mind for some if not all the players from last season’s playoff series that ended with a Cavaliers sweep.

But Celtics players are doing their best to make tonight’s game into anything but a Taylor Swift “Bad Blood” moment.

“Last year was last year,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “I don’t know how the guys on either side feel about it. Obviously, Love’s injury was really important. We all know Kelly and we all know he did it inadvertently. And we were all fortunate with Jae that when he went down it wasn’t anything more serious than he had.

Stevens added, “It’s a new season. For us, we’re focused on trying to play our best basketball.”

That’s all well and good, but there is a sense that the Celtics have not totally flushed out the disappointment they felt in getting swept by the highly regarded Cavaliers.

Crowder said he would like an apology from Smith for what some perceived as a cheap shot to Crowder’s face in Game 4 of their playoff series last spring. If he doesn’t get one, Crowder says he’ll “just play basketball” and keep it moving.

While this will serve as just one of many regular season games against an elite team, Celtics players anticipate it’ll have a playoff vibe to it akin to what they experienced last week when the Golden State Warriors came to down.

In the 124-119 double overtime loss to the Warriors on Friday, Boston’s fan base stood on their feet for most of the second half which is the kind of scene you seldom see in a game played in the middle of December against a team not called the Los Angeles Lakers.

Because the Cavs are where the Celtics aspire to be someday, the intensity level will be amplified for sure.

And the past issues between these two programs will certainly be a subplot most basketball aficionados will look to keep eyes on tonight.

“I don’t think it’ll be that crazy,” Olynyk said. “It’ll definitely be a tough match, a hard fought game. It’ll be a playoff atmosphere. The Garden will be rockin’ again like it was Friday night.”


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