Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics
- Boston has won four of its last five games against Cleveland, though the last three games have been decided by three points or less.
- Boston lost all three of its games on its most recent road trip by more than 10 points. It is just the second time since the start of 2007-08, that the Celtics have lost three consecutive games by 10 or more points (other time was February 19-22, 2012). However, the Celtics are 8-4 at home this season, including wins in each of their last four home games.
- The Cavaliers are just 1-9 this month and have averaged 7.8 fewer free-throw attempts per game than their opponents during December.
- Cleveland is shooting 42.1 percent (45/107) from the three-point line over its last five games. Cleveland is fourth in the Eastern Conference in three-pointers this season (8.0).
- Rajon Rondo scored a season-high 26 points in Chicago last night, but recorded just eight assists. The Celtics are 0-3 this season when Rondo has less than 10 assists.
- Anderson Varejao got to the line 16 times against the Raptors last night, besting his previous career high of 13 set on January 2, 2009 against the Bulls. Varejao, a game-time decision today, and Kevin Love are the only two NBA players this season averaging 14 points and 14 rebounds per game.
By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- Kyrie Irving claims the Cleveland Cavaliers are more assertive versus the NBA's so-called elite teams than against lesser competition.
The Boston Celtics will need to start playing considerably better in order to be known as the former.
Boston looks to avoid a fourth straight loss while Cleveland tries to end a four-game skid Wednesday night at TD Garden.
The Cavaliers (5-21) have the most losses in the league and haven't won since beating the Los Angeles Lakers 100-94 on Dec. 11 - Irving's first game back after missing the previous 11 with a broken finger.
That victory was followed by losses to Indiana and Milwaukee before Irving scored a career-high 41 points as Cleveland hung tough with New York in a 103-102 defeat Saturday.
The Cavs didn't play nearly as well in Tuesday's 113-99 home loss to Toronto - a team that had only one road victory entering the game.
"I'm not trying to make excuses, but when we play the lower-echelon teams we don't come out as we want to," said Irving, who scored 23 points and added seven assists but also committed five turnovers. "When we're playing against the Lakers and New York, we're in the game. We have to come with a more focused attitude."
Boston, which has won four of the last five meetings with Cleveland, hopes to take advantage of playing one of those lower-echelon teams after going winless on its three-game road trip - marking its longest skid this season.
The Celtics (12-12) dropped each contest by double digits, including Monday's 100-89 loss to Chicago. Rajon Rondo scored a season-high 26 points and added eight assists while Paul Pierce finished with 16 points.
"We're going to keep searching," coach Doc Rivers said. "This team is not a good team right now."
Boston committed only nine turnovers Tuesday but shot 43.2 percent and scored fewer than 90 points for the third straight game.
"This is who we are right now. A .500 team. And we played like that (Tuesday)," Rivers said.
Boston likely will be happy to return home, where it has won four straight overall and seven of the last nine matchups with Cleveland. The Cavs won the latest one, though, 88-87 on Jan. 29 thanks to Irving's layup with 3 seconds remaining.
Cleveland got rookie Dion Waters back Tuesday after he missed eight games with a sprained left ankle, though it got a scare when Anderson Varejao left in the first quarter with a bruised right knee.
He returned in the second with a sleeve on his leg and proceeded to score 22 points, though coach Byron Scott is hoping there aren't any lasting effects. Varejao is the league's leading rebounder with 14.4 per game.
"I'm still concerned," Scott said of Varejao, who averaged 19.0 points and 14.5 boards in two games against the Celtics last season. "Even though he played ... we've got a flight, we've got another (game) tomorrow. We'll see how he feels."
It's also unclear if Daniel Gibson will be available Wednesday after leaving in the fourth quarter with a leg injury.
Irving scored 24 points while Rondo went scoreless but finished with 11 assists as visiting Boston beat the Varejao-less Cavs 86-83 in the most recent meeting Feb. 28.
Updated December 19, 2012