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Celtics-Cavaliers Preview

AP - Sports

With the Boston Celtics mired in another rough stretch, coach Doc Rivers wonders just how focused his team is on improving its play.

Coming off another questionable effort, the Celtics hope to avoid matching their season-high four-game skid by posting a fourth consecutive series victory overall and on the road against the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

Boston (20-20) has been inconsistent all season and rather streaky over the last 3 1/2 weeks. The Celtics averaged 84.8 points while allowing 104.5 during a four-game slide from Dec. 27-Jan 2, but followed by yielding 85.2 points per contest over a season-high six-game winning streak.

However, the Celtics have dropped three in a row since that run, beginning with a 90-78 loss to New Orleans on Wednesday. Boston showed life in a 100-99 overtime home defeat to Chicago on Friday, but never led in Sunday's 103-88 loss at Detroit.

"We are playing awful and I am clearly not doing my job for this team - and I am serious,'' Rivers said. "I am not trying to take a bullet for the team and I told them that. I said we have to find something where all 12 guys play the same way.''

Rajon Rondo had 15 assists and nine rebounds Sunday but shot 4 of 16 and committed half of Boston's 18 turnovers. Paul Pierce had 10 points in 36 minutes as the Celtics shot 39.8 percent.

Rivers will consider just about every option in his search to solve Boston's problems.

"I do not know if we need changes," he said. "I am saying if we do not get it right then we may. The six-game winning streak was great. Three of those six we played tremendous basketball and the other three we won the game.

"I do not think the guys are honest with each other. I just do not think we are committed to being a good basketball team."

Pierce is 1 of 11 from 3-point range while scoring 11.7 per game - 7.3 below his average - in the last three. Rondo scored 30 points on 12-of-21 shooting against the Bulls, but sandwiched that contest by totaling 15 while going 7 of 24 from the field versus New Orleans and Detroit.

A visit to Cleveland (10-32) might help the Celtics get back on track for at least one night. Pierce scored 40 and Rondo added 20 as Boston shot a season-high 59.7 percent in a 103-91 home victory over the Cavaliers on Dec. 19.

The Celtics have shot 50.0 percent or better in five of their last six games against Cleveland.

The December meeting was the first game Anderson Varejao missed with a leg injury that eventually required surgery, but the Cavaliers found out Monday that a far more serious issue came up. Varejao developed a blood clot in his lung following the surgery and will miss the remainder of the season as he'll spend the next three months on blood thinners.

Boston has won the last two meetings at Quicken Loans Arena by three points each, and now visits a Cavaliers team that's just 4-12 at home and returning from a 1-4 road trip.

Rookie Dion Waiters scored 23 while Kyrie Irving added 18 with nine assists Saturday, but Cleveland allowed Utah to shoot 50.0 percent in a 109-98 loss.

"When our guys want to get it going, we just don't,'' said Irving, who was 7 of 20 from the field after going 13 of 24 for 31 points in Wednesday's 93-88 win at Portland. "We talk about it. Then teams make shots and we just don't respond.''

Irving has averaged 22.5 points and shot 55.7 percent (34 of 61) in four career games versus Boston.

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