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LeBron James, Isaiah Thomas try to play down importance of Cavaliers vs. Celtics

Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 29: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrates with Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Boston Celtics during the final seconds second half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 29, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Celtics 124-118. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

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Heading into Wednesday night’s showdown, Boston and Cleveland are tied with identical 50-27 records.

The winner of Wednesday night’s game will have the pole position to get the No. 1 seed in the East. It also can be a statement game for both teams. Boston wins and it gains confidence it could beat Cleveland in a playoff showdown, the Celtics can say they are a legit threat to come out of the East. For Cleveland, win and they show their slump is behind them and they are ready to claim their rightful spot as the clear best team in the conference.

Just don’t tell LeBron James or Isaiah Thomas that.

Here’s Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely at

“No. Not for me,” said Thomas when asked if the game felt any different being the No. 1 seed. “It’s just another game; I think we have to treat it like that. Being number one in the standings, I don’t feel different, treat it like another game.”

Here’s what LeBron said, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I don’t know, I’ve played in a lot of big games,” James said... “I don’t ... I’m the last person to ask about a big game in the regular season. I’m sorry.”

No, the outcome of this game will not tell us what happens in a seven-game series. For one, Cleveland is on the second night of a back-to-back. However, more than that teams don’t have the time to drill down on film, modify game plans and sets, and generally prepare for a team the way they do in the playoffs. The postseason is a different animal.

The outcome of this game may not even tell us who gets the top seed — Cleveland has a tougher schedule the rest of the way, and coach Tyronn Lue has talked about resting guys heading into the playoffs. Things are still in flux.

But it still matters — this game will give the winner some confidence going into the playoffs. And that matters.