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No KG, no Ray, no Big Baby — no problem. The Celtics dominated in their final preseason tune-up against the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night, coasting to a 96-82 win in front of a sellout crowd at Value City Arena on the campus of Ohio State University.
With newcomers Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels, Shelden Williams, and Lester Hudson playing major minutes against a Cavs squad that featured its regular rotation (less Delonte West) for the first three quarters, the outcome should have been in doubt. It never was.
Daniels, who came to Boston for less money and the opportunity to play for a contender, led the way again for the Green, with 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds.
With his combination of length and quickness, Daniels proved to be a mismatch against everyone the Cavs threw at him: Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Mo Williams, and even Daniel Gibson. The question that plagued the Celtics second unit last year—Who’s going to score?—appears to have been answered. Daniels can create his own offense, inside and out, or kick it to some very capable outside shooters in Eddie House (game high 21 points on 8 of 14 shooting) and Wallace (10 points on 3 of 9).
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, looked to be suffering from the after effects of a flu virus that put seven of its players on the injured list just a week ago. The Celtics second unit outplayed Cleveland’s flat starting five all night. And the Cavs’ biggest question—can Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James share the ball?—remains unanswered. Shaq (16 points 5 rebounds) and LeBron (18 points) each looked impressive individually at times, but they never gelled, flu or no flu.
Sharing the rock was not a problem for the Celtics. Five of nine players that logged minutes scored in double digits, and the newcomer heavy rotation (Shelden Williams played a solid 20:47) moved the ball like a group that’s been playing together for 40 regular season games, let alone seven exhibitions.
Perhaps most impressive was what the Celtics didn’t do—turn the ball over. With only 8 giveaways on the game (Cavs had 16), Boston appears primed and ready to kick off the 2009-2010 regular season. They’ll do just that when they return to Ohio on October 27 to face the these same Cavs.