The Boston Celtics are ascending in the Eastern Conference with wins in four straight games and eight in their last 10.
The Celtics look to continue their strong play on Friday when they seek their seventh straight victory over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers.
Kemba Walker, who scored 22 points in Boston’s 118-102 win at Toronto on Christmas Day, matched that total in a 110-88 victory over the Cavaliers on Dec. 9 and had 25 in a 119-113 triumph in Cleveland on Nov. 5.
Walker has done plenty of damage from 3-point range, connecting on five shots from beyond the arc against the Raptors to mark his 12th game of the season with at least that many. The 29-year-old reached that plateau in both contests against the Cavaliers.
“Making the right plays; that’s all we do,” Walker said. “And whenever guys are getting their opportunities, just knocking shots down.”
Jaylen Brown made 10 of 13 shots — including 5 of 7 from 3-point range — to highlight his game-high 30-point performance against Toronto.
“I was just trying to be efficient,” the 23-year-old Brown said. “I think that was the goal — just being aggressive, but trying to make every shot. No wasted motion.”
Gordon Hayward returned from a three-game absence due to an ailing left foot and contributed 14 points on an efficient 6-of-9 effort from the floor.
“That’s what we want. We want to have guys attacking from different spots on the floor. It makes us hard to guard,” said the 29-year-old Hayward, who made 7 of 10 shots for 14 points in Boston’s most-recent victory over Cleveland.
That setback was part of the Cavaliers’ season-high eight-game losing streak, however the club enters the opener of a three-game road trip on the strength of three straight victories for the first time since March 28-April 5, 2018.
“It shows that we are improving,” Cleveland coach John Beilein said following Monday’s 121-118 victory over Atlanta. “I don’t know if we win this game a month ago.”
Collin Sexton scored 25 points and rookie Darius Garland pumped in 10 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter in the Cavaliers’ first game since trading veteran guard Jordan Clarkson to Utah.
Although rookie Kevin Porter Jr. saw additional minutes in the fourth quarter in lieu of Clarkson’s departure, the 19-year-old admitted that his former teammate wasn’t far from his mind.
“I like being in those moments,” Porter said, per Cleveland.com. “Only thing that doesn’t sit with me is my boy not being here. Jordan helped me a lot and made my game easier for me. I was feeding off of him a lot. He’s shown me a lot, just how to really read the defense and pick them apart.
“I’ve never been in this situation. It was kind of devastating, but you know, you’ve got a game in two minutes. You kind of just have to snap out of it. For my first time, it was tough. The first three quarters, I kept thinking about it. It’s not a good feeling. But you gotta keep going, you gotta persevere.”
Kevin Love scored 20 points as he continues to distance himself from three woeful shooting performances earlier this month in which he shot 8 of 26 from the field, including 3 of 12 for seven points against Boston.
Love fared significantly better in the first outing versus the Celtics, going 7 of 14 from the floor for 17 points.
–Field Level Media