According to ESPN, the Celtics are the favorites to beat the Cavaliers and take sole possession of the best record in the Eastern Conferance when the two teams take center stage on national TV beginning at 8 PM.
If Boston does in fact grab the victory over the NBA champions, they will have a 65.8 percent chance of finishing the regular season as the number one seed in the East, while if the Cavaliers pull off the win, they will have an 86.7 percent chance of holding that top spot.
Both teams come into tonight's matchup at 50-27 while the Celtics have won nine of their last 11 outings, the Cavs are 5-5 in their last 10 games, a far cry from the dominant Finals contenders a season ago.
Though LeBron James doesn't seem worried at the moment , he did downplay the showdown with Boston on Tuesday night after a 122-102 win over the Magic
"I'm not one to get caught up in regular season big games," said James, who has reached the NBA Finals playing as a No. 2 seed five times in his career. "I've been to six straight Finals; I'm the last person to ask." [ESPN]Cleveland is 1-9 in back-to-back situations this season, and they will not have the services of Tristan Thompson in the lineup, who's unavailable for the first time in 447 straight games with a sprained right thumb (somewhere A.C. Green is smiling). His league leading streak that dates back to February 10, 2012 comes to an end and will sit out at least two weeks.
Look for Larry Sanders, who got the call up from the D-League on Tuesday, to try and replicate 8 points and 9 rebounds that Thompson averages a night.
On the flip side, Avery Bradley makes his return to the Celtics lineup, after missing two consecutive games with a pesky stomach bug, that had him hospitalized nearly two weeks ago.
Coach Brad Stevens couldn't be more happy to have his defensive juggernaut stud back in such an important game."I think the doctors and stuff just saw how I was looking [last week] and how my body was looking, and they just said it wasn't smart for me to play," Bradley said. "They didn't want to put me in a situation where I could have potentially got an injury. I just wasn't feeling good. ... I'm just trying to stay hydrated, making sure I'm getting IVs and drinking water." [ESPN Boston]
Jae Crowder will also start, after an MRI revealed no structural damage to his right elbow that had swelled up enough to pull himself out of Sunday's win against the Knicks. Not only is he ready to go, but this makes it only the 33rd time this season all five opening night starters will play together for Stevens. They are currently 24-8, one of the league's best, despite the somewhat small sample."Avery is really important to helping us be the best version of ourselves," said Stevens [ESPN Boston]
Whether the Cavaliers want to admit it or not, since the All-Star break they look fatigued, while the Celtics have look stronger than ever, especially the last month in half. Both teams are healthy for the most part, but only one of the two are still considered championship contenders round the basketball world.
With five games remaining, both the Celtics and the Cavaliers want to finish as the top seed, a win for either team would put them in great shape to accomplish that.
Grab that popcorn kids, this should be a good one...
Photo used is courtesy of Associated Press