Cavaliers-Celtics Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 28, 2012
A recent spate of injuries isn't proving much of an obstacle to the Boston Celtics, thanks in large part to Paul Pierce. The Cleveland Cavaliers haven't been much of an obstacle for opponents recently. Pierce looks to continue both his surge and that of his team Sunday night as the Celtics go for a season-high five-game winning streak in the opener of a home-and-home set with the visiting Cavaliers. Boston (9-9) is currently playing without starters Ray Allen (ankle), Rajon Rondo (right wrist) and Jermaine O'Neal (knee). Rondo has been out five games, while Allen has missed three and O'Neal two. It's unclear when any of them will return, but the Pierce-led Celtics are managing just fine. Boston has won four in a row by an average of 13.0 points. Pierce is averaging 26.3 points, 8.8 assists and 7.3 rebounds during the winning streak. Pierce was stellar again Friday, coming two assists shy of a triple-double in a 94-87 home victory over Indiana. He scored 17 of his 28 points in the third quarter and finished with 10 boards, eight assists, three steals and two blocks. "I like to come out in the third quarter and just be aggressive," said Pierce, who is averaging 6.5 points in the third this season - 2.1 more than in any other period. "You can make your run. You can't really settle on the lead. I try to focus on extending the lead, being more aggressive and getting better as the game goes on." Pierce is averaging 24.0 points in his last four home meetings with Cleveland (7-11), all Celtics victories. Brandon Bass is helping to pick up the scoring slack for Boston, averaging 13.0 points and 7.2 boards over his last six games and entering the starting lineup in place of O'Neal for the last two. Bass scored 22 points and shot 9 of 10 from the floor in his last meeting with Cleveland, last March 21 with Orlando. The Celtics took two of three from the Cavs last season, winning 112-95 at home behind 24 points from Pierce on Jan. 25, 2011. While the Celtics are streaking, the Cavaliers have averaged 89.3 points while dropping five of their last six. Coach Byron Scott wasn't happy with Cleveland's latest effort, a 99-96 loss at home to New Jersey on Friday after beating New York 91-81 two days prior. "I don't know if guys thought we've arrived or we can't stand prosperity," Scott said. "We lost the game, period. They played harder than we did for a longer period of time than we did. We got what we deserved. We waited until there was seven minutes left in the game to play harder." Kyrie Irving, the top overall pick in last summer's NBA Draft, is looking to build on his best performance of the season. The Duke product had 32 points, shot 12 of 20 from the floor and added six rebounds against the Nets. Irving leads the Cavs with 17.6 points and 4.8 assists per game. These teams will meet again Tuesday in Cleveland.
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