The Boston Celtics (6-11, 2-5 home) host the Cleveland Cavaliers (4-11, 1-8 away) on Friday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
CLEVELAND ROCKED: Safe to say this isn't what most expected from the Cavaliers to start the season. A team that showed such potential last season has been slow out of the gates, ranking in the bottom half of the league in most major statistical categories, including offensive rating (94.1 points per 100 possessions, one spot behind Boston). What do the Cavs do well? Not a lot. They are in the top half of the league (barely at 14th overall) in defensive rebound rate (75 percent), but the Cavs are 28th in assist ratio, 20th in rebounding percentage, and 23rd in turnover percentage.
AVERY VS. KYRIE: After a bout with Memphis' Mike Conley (the Grizzlies guard had the upper hand early), Celtics guard Avery Bradley will be tasked with helping to slow down Kyrie Irving. You'll remember Bradley being a bit defiant last season after Irving had a big game against the Celtics in Cleveland. Bradley takes great pride in trying to slow opposing scorers, particularly some of the league's top young names like Irving. The young Cavs guard is averaging 21 points, 6.1 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in 34.5 minutes per game. The Celtics know Irving can single-handedly take over a game via the pick-and-roll, and Bradley will be needed to prevent that.
REBOUNDING IN FOCUS: Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao have dominated Boston on the glass in past seasons. The Celtics have been a poor defensive rebounding team this season (27th in defensive rebound rate) and need to keep those two off the glass. But when the Cavaliers do get offensive rebounds, will they convert them? They have really struggled to turn offensive caroms into points this season (particularly Thompson, who is shooting an impossibly low 31.8 percent off offensive rebounds, according to Synergy Sports).
WHAT ELSE?: As STATS LLC notes, the Celtics haven't lost five games in a row at home since before the Big Three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen united prior to the 2007-08 season. Boston is seeking to avoid losing five straight at TD Garden for the first time since 2007, while yearning to establish a home-court advantage. ... If Courtney Lee can't play due to a left-knee sprain, will the Celtics dust off MarShon Brooks? ... Cavs forward Anthony Bennett, the No. 1 pick in June's draft, has appeared in only 11 games, averaging 2 points and 2.7 rebounds in 11.1 minutes per game. ... Cavs guard Dion Waiters, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, has seen his name bubble up in trade rumors during his sophomore season. ... Keep an eye on Cavs guard Jarrett Jack off the bench. Signed as a free agent after impressing with Golden State last season as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, he can provide a second-unit spark.