BOSTON – You hear players who find themselves teamed up with LeBron James talk about how great it is to play with arguably the best player on the planet.
But when you’ve won at the levels James has for so many years, there’s an unspoken expectation of success and contributions he expects from those around him.
It’s pretty obvious those expectations weren’t being met, which led to Cavs GM Koby Altman triggering a mass exodus via trades of the roster that James and the Cavs began the season with.
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And while there’s going to be some time needed for the new Cavs to find their footing in a new city with a new cast of teammates, they already know the most important relationship to develop is one with James.
George Hill, among the new additions by Cleveland at the trade deadline, has been at both ends of the success spectrum. Drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 2008, he understands the nuances of being part of a franchise with a winning culture, the kind that Cleveland has tried to cultivate since James returned three years ago. And having been traded to Cleveland from Sacramento (consistently one of the worst teams in the NBA), Hill knows for this to work requires players to buy into whatever role they’re called upon to play.
And when LeBron James is one of your teammates, that role is pretty clear.
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"We have one of the best players in the history of the game, I'm sure he's going to dictate the tempo and things like that," Hill told reporters on Saturday. "We just got (to) do our job, be the best role players we can possibly be. He's the Batman, and we got to be all Robins. We got to figure it out."
Here are five under-the-radar storylines heading into this pivotal matchup between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers.
With a roster that has been in a state of influx recently, LeBron James has carried an even heavier load for the Cleveland Cavaliers. And the result has been back-to-back triple doubles coming into today’s game. He has 10 triple-doubles this season, and will try and make it three in a row today which would be the second time this he put together three straight triple-doubles.
It’s hard to believe but we’re only a couple months away from the start of the playoffs, and this game may become a difference-maker in terms of playoff seeding. While Boston has a comfortable 6.5 game cushion over Cleveland, the winner of today’s game will win the head-to-head series which is the first criteria used in breaking a tie.
BEST, WORST OF TIMES FOR ROZIER
This past week or so won’t be forgotten anytime soon for Terry Rozier. He tallied a triple-double in his first start, then followed that up with a career-high 31 points. However, his recent stretch of play includes a 1-for-11 shooting performance in Boston’s 97-91 loss to Indiana on Friday. It was the worst shooting performance of the third-year guard’s career so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of bounce-back performance he’ll have today. And remember, Rozier had a game-high 20 points in Boston’s 102-88 win over the Cavs earlier this season.
Who would have guessed Ante Zizic would be the last man standing in Cleveland as part of the trade with Boston that made Kyrie Irving a Celtic, and sent Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Zizic and a pair of draft picks to the Cavs. Thomas was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers while Crowder was shipped out to Utah (the same team Crowder’s dad played for). Meanwhile, Zizic, drafted with the 23rd overall pick by Boston in 2016, has appeared in 13 games this season for the Cavs while averaging one point and 1.2 rebounds per game.
TODAY IS A GOOD DAY
Players don’t really notice it that much, but there’s usually one day of the week where wins seem to come at a higher clip than others. For the Celtics, that would be Sundays. This season, they have a 5-1 record on the last/first day of the week (depending on your calendar) with the lone Sunday setback being a 103-95 home loss to Orlando on Jan. 21.