Cleveland Cavaliers vs Boston Celtics 12/22/21: Starting Lineups, Matchup Preview, Betting Odds, Live Stream

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics Matchup Preview (12/22/21)

The Cleveland Cavaliers will travel to TD Garden to face the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night. Currently, the Cavaliers are on a 6 game winning streak with an average margin of victory of 21.5 points over that stretch. However, the Cavaliers have recently lost key players to COVID. Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, Lamar Stevens, Ed Davis, Denzel Valentine, Dylan Windler, and RJ Nembhard are all out due to COVID protocols. Isaac Okoro (COVID) is a gametime decision, and could be a huge boost to the Cavaliers decimated depth chart.

Without Mobley and Allen, the Cavs stingy defense won’t be as potent. Those two lock down the paint and allow the perimeter defenders to hard commit on the three point line and funnel driving players into Mobley and Allen. The Cavaliers must have players step up offensively and defensively to compensate for lost production. 

The Celtics are seeking to put their disappointing loss to the 76ers behind them. They were up 7 points with 4:14 left in the game, but they blew another lead. It is a concerning trend for this Celtics team, and one that the Cavaliers already exploited when they made a 19-point comeback against the Celtics in November. The Celtics will be without Al Horford, Grant Williams, Josh Richardson, Jabari Parker, Juancho Hernangomez, Brodric Thomas, and Sam Hauser due to COVID protocols. In addition to these absences, Robert Williams (personal) is a game time decision.

With the lack of big men in this game, Williams would be essential in providing rim protection and rebounding. The Celtics have had a rocky December, going 4-6, but the schedule had a strong slate of contenders. If the Celtics can close out December on a strong note, they will have a January riddled with lottery-bound teams. The Celtics have already split games with the Cavaliers, going 1-1 in November. A win would allow them to take the tiebreaker as of right now and better position themselves in the Eastern Conference.

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics Betting Odds

With all of the absences, the Celtics will have the clear talent advantage in this game. The Cavaliers have played more team basketball and less as individual players on the same team. Because of this, the Cavaliers should keep the game closer than expected, although I expect the Celtics to win the game. Without Allen and Mobley to help, the Cavaliers will find it difficult to stop Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown on the perimeter. Garland, Osman, and potentially Okoro must prevent the Celtics from slashing because Kevin Love, Lauri Markkanen, and Dean Wade are not rim protectors.

The two games between these teams this year have been a 91-89 Cavaliers win and a 98-92 Celtics win. Both affairs have been low scoring and sloppy offensively. I don’t expect either team to light up the scoreboard, though I believe the Celtics could break 110 points. I am going with the Celtics moneyline here. I don’t trust the Cavaliers defense this game and their offense will be too reliant on Darius Garland to create and score.

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TV Schedule

Date: 12/22/21
Time: 7:00 PM ET
Arena: TD Garden – Boston, MA
Channel: NBA League Pass

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Cleveland Cavaliers Starting Lineup

PG: Darius Garland
SG: Isaac Okoro
SF: Lauri Markkanen
PF: Evan Mobley
C: Jarrett Allen

Cleveland Cavaliers Analysis

The Cavaliers will lean on Garland, Osman, Markkanen, and Love to carry them throughout the game. Fortunately, they are the best shooters on the team. Garland (39.2%), Love (40.1%), and Osman (41%) must shoot the three efficiently if they want to keep pace with the scoring prowess of Tatum, Brown, and Schr​​öder. Although Markkanen has struggled from deep this year, he shot 40.2% from three last year on 5.8 attempts per game and has potential. Besides Garland and Rubio, the only player averaging over 2 APG is Kevin Love. Osman and Love must be secondary playmakers in this game and force the Celtics to not solely focus on stopping Garland from distributing. Kevin Love needs to play the high post and use his passing skills to find active cutters.

Without excellent off-ball movement, the Cavaliers will be too predictable and stagnant on offense. Defensively, Osman must stonewall Brown and Tatum from driving too much because there is no Allen and Mobley waiting to affect the shot. Osman has been very effective this year at guarding Spot Up shooters. Although the Cavaliers are 2nd best in the NBA in 3PT% allowed (32.5%), it will be a struggle to stop the Celtics from shooting well.

The open paint will force the Cavaliers to help more on the inside, which could allow more open threes. Overall, the depth chart is just too barren for the Cavaliers. Beyond Garland, Rubio, Osman, Markkanen, Love, and Dean, the Cavaliers will be forced to play inexperienced players such as rookie Kevin Pangos. The starting unit will have a fighting chance against the Celtics, but the Cavaliers must get contributions from their bench if they want to win this game.

Boston Celtics Starting Lineup

PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Robert Williams

Boston Celtics Analysis

The Celtics will look to Jayson Tatum once again to lead them to victory. Since his slow start, Tatum has been an offensive force in December. Over his last 10 games, Tatum is averaging 29.2 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 3.7 APG on 48/35/83 shooting. Marcus Smart and Enes Freedom are the key players for the Celtics in this matchup. Garland is turning the ball over at a high rate (3.76 per game) and Smart has been a menace on the defensive end with 2.03 steals per game. The Celtics will succeed if Smart can force Garland into unnecessary turnovers and stop Garland from dictating the flow of the game. Smart must force Garland to be a scorer or a distributor; he cannot allow him to be involved in all facets of the game offensively. Freedom, meanwhile, has a chance to give the Celtics second-chance points. Freedom has a sparkling offensive rebound percentage of 19.4%, nearly the same as Kevin Love’s total rebound percentage of 19.5%.

If Robert Williams plays, Freedom can dominate the offensive boards on the second unit and give the Celtics easy points. This production would be huge for the Celtics because they have a great chance to win the game if their second unit outplays the Cavaliers. If Williams does not play, Freedom must slip into a rim protection role for the starting unit and also seek offensive rebounds. With Kevin Love needing a strong night, Freedom’s defense can be a boon for the Celtics. Although Freedom is not known for his defense, he must turn in a strong performance against the Cavaliers. Overall, the Celtics should feel good going into this matchup. They have a talent advantage, but they must focus on playing the full 48 minutes. Another blown lead would be demoralizing for a team fighting to move up the Eastern Conference standings.

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics Daily Fantasy Picks

Look for Tatum to continue his stellar play and lead the Celtics in scoring once again. Garland and Brown should produce their usual numbers and turn in a strong performance. The players who benefit the most from this matchup are Kevin Love and Dennis Schr​​öder. Love will become an offensive focal point and take on a bigger role. I expect Love to get more shots and touches this game as he is the main threat down low.

Schr​​öder, meanwhile, will benefit from the lack of rim protection. A big part of Schr​​öder’s game is driving to the basket, which should be easier in this game than in others. The Cavaliers bench could be underwhelming in this game, so Schr​​öder also has a chance to produce against the weak second unit. Freedom is a risky pick, but the upside is there. The status of Robert Williams will affect Freedom’s touches and opportunities. If Williams does not play, look for Freedom to be a value pick.

Braxton has been covering the NBA for Lineups since the 2022 season. He's worked with multiple collegiate coaching staffs regarding analytics and scouting, which has allowed him to understand the game on a deeper level. Braxton is also a contributor at Thunderous Intentions.

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