BOSTON – As the reigning NBA champs, Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is well-versed on the what constitutes a big game.
Tonight’s matchup against the Celtics?
Yup, it’s a big one.
Boston (38-22) comes into tonight’s game with the fourth-best record in the NBA and sits in the No. 2 spot in the East, trailing the Cavs (41-17) by four games.
While the Celtics have lost three of their past four, they are still in the middle of a great run in which they have won 12 of their past 16.
“They’re playing great basketball,” said Lue, a former Celtics assistant coach. “It’s a big game; [numbers] one and two. We win tonight, we have the tiebreaker on them, a little bit more cushion. It’s going to be a good game for us.”
It certainly hasn’t been for the Celtics, losing to the Cavs in each of their past three meetings.
And in those games, Boston has given up at least 120 points in each matchup. Despite their struggles defensively against the Cavs, Boston lost the past two meetings by just six points each.
Against the top-four teams in the East surrounding them (Cleveland, Washington, Toronto and Atlanta), Boston has a record of just 3-8.
Despite the outcomes, the Celtics have shown a tendency to play with greater focus and overall effort against the Cavs, something LeBron James says he sees on a night-in, night-out basis.
“I think the whole NBA plays hard and they’re [Celtics] one of the teams that does that as well,” James said. “It’s always competitive every night you step on an NBA court.”
You would think that the competitive juices would be flowing even greater tonight considering tonight’s game features the top two teams in the East.
Isaiah Thomas has made no secret about paying close attention to the NBA standings.
Not so much.
“Not me personally,” James said. “It’s all about me; it’s about our team, our process. We come out and play our game every night, then things like that take care of itself.”