These Celtics have a different look from the ones steamrolled by the Cavs


BOSTON -- One of the benefits of having so many new faces on the Celtics roster this season, is that they don’t have stinging memories of losing to the Cavaliers over and over and over again. 
For most of them, their only experience with the Cavs came on October 17 when, after losing Gordon Hayward to a gruesome dislocated left ankle injury, they battled back from an 18-point deficit in the third quarter and took the lead, only to see the Cavs to rally in the final minutes for a 102-99 win. 
It was a tough, emotional roller-coaster loss, but it set the tone for a team whose identity has been deeply rooted in its perseverance and will to compete until the final horn sounds, regardless of how insurmountable a deficit appears.
What has happened in the past, in their minds at least, has little to no bearing on what’s about to happen now. 
And in their minds, Boston losing nine of the last regular-season games, or eight of the last nine playoff matchups, against Cleveland has no bearing on what we’ll witness tonight.
These are not the Celtics of recent past.

“We have a different group,” said Al Horford. “The approach has to be what it has been all year, just continue to get better game to game. And [tonight] we have an opportunity: To compete against a good team and just get better. We feel like we’re prepared, we’re excited. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
Here are five under-the-radar story lines to keep an eye on as Boston begins the 2018 calendar year against Cleveland, the same team the Celtics opened this season against in October.

We have seen time and time again both Kyrie Irving and LeBron James score key baskets for their respective teams in the closing minutes of tight games. But as it turns out, they get points in down-to-the-wire games better than anyone else in the league. James leads all players in the league with 110 points in the clutch (games that are within five points within the last five minutes of play) while Irving is right behind him with 99 points.


The Cleveland bench comes into tonight’s game averaging 40.5 points per game, which ranks fifth in the NBA. It’s a second unit that features three players -- Jeff Green, Dwyane Wade and Kyle Korver -- who are each averaging 10 or more points per game. Boston counters with a second unit that has been a work in progress but trending in the right direction lately. For the season it ranks 23rd in the NBA in points with 30.9 per game. But according to, the Celtics are 11th in the last five games, averaging 37.2 points per game off the bench. (Cleveland is ninth in that span, with a 39.6 average.)



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