Cavaliers-Celtics Preview

The Associated Press

The last time the Boston Celtics dropped five in a row at home, they were a season away from beginning the Big Three era. With Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen all gone, long losing streaks on their own court might happen more frequently.

Boston has been a streaky team during this rebuilding season, and it will try to avoid losing five straight at home for the first time in almost seven years when it meets the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.

The Celtics opened 2012-13 with four consecutive losses before winning four in a row. They followed that streak with a six-game slide, then won two straight on the road prior to Wednesday's 100-93 defeat to Memphis.

It was the fourth straight loss at TD Garden for the Celtics, who haven't endured a five-game skid there since dropping 13 straight in 2006-07. Ten of those defeats were part of a franchise-record 18-game overall losing streak that occurred one season before they acquired Garnett and Allen.

Allen left for Miami following the 2011-12 season, and Pierce and Garnett were traded to Brooklyn in June. Coach Doc Rivers is now with the Los Angeles Clippers, leaving first-year NBA coach Brad Stevens with the task of leading the Celtics back to greatness.

Stevens' team is off to a rough start, especially on the offensive end. The Celtics are 24th in the NBA with 92.9 points and 17.0 turnovers per game.

Boston (6-11) shot 42.7 percent against the Grizzlies and was held below 95 points for the 11th time. It's averaging 88.5 points during the four straight home losses.

"It's certainly not the atmosphere; the atmosphere has been great," Stevens said. "Of all the atmospheres I've been in in the NBA, and I haven't been here very long, this is by far my favorite. With the passion and how loud the fans are. ... At the end of the day we need to get better at home, we need to get better on the road, we need to become a better basketball team."

The same can be said for the Cavaliers, whose skid reached a season-high four with Wednesday's 95-84 loss to the visiting Heat.

Cleveland (4-11) has also had trouble offensively, ranking right behind Boston with 92.6 points per game while sitting 27th in the league with a 41.8 shooting percentage.

Since beating Philadelphia 127-125 in double overtime Nov. 9, the Cavaliers have averaged 91.3 points in losing seven of eight. Six of their 11 defeats have been by more than 10 points.

"Everyone else can write us off. But in this locker room, we believe in each other. We're going to figure this out," said point guard Kyrie Irving, who leads the team with 21.0 points per game but is shooting 40.4 percent.

Making matters worse, a report recently surfaced saying the Cavaliers are trying to trade second-year guard Dion Waiters, who denied he asked to be moved and insists he loves playing in Cleveland.

"It's just nonsense," said Waiters, the fourth overall pick in 2012. "There's been things thrown out there that haven't been true at all."

Cleveland, which is 1-8 on the road, has split its last six regular-season games in Boston after losing 17 of its previous 21 visits.

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