The break could not have come at a better time for a Boston club that entered the break riding a five-game losing streak following a 119-104 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday in the finale of a four-game road trip.
"I said at the beginning of the year that this is a year of urgency," coach Doc Rivers said. "It really is. This is the way it is.
"It���s a year of urgency, and you can see that some teams attacked the season, and some teams -- and we were one of them -- kind of joined the season. This second half there will be more urgency every single game. There���s just not a lot of games left. And even games when you're banged up you've just got to figure a way of trying to hold on and steal games. I think that'll be the way for everybody."
Injuries have taken their toll on Boston this season, but tonight the team hopes to have forwards Brandon Bass (right knee) and Chris Wilcox (right adductor) back in the lineup. Center Jermaine O'Neal, though, is still expected to be sidelined with a sprained left wrist.
"But that���s just the luck of the draw," Rivers added. "There���s nothing you can do. I didn't spend my All-Star break worrying about health. Either you have it or you don't, and there���s nothing I can do about that part. But the other part is that the guys we have just have to be better."
The Celtics, who have finished in the top four of the Eastern Conference in each of the last four seasons, have dropped seven of eight overall and at 15-17 on the season are just 1 1/2 games better than tonight's opponent, the Cavaliers, for the final playoff spot in the conference.
Cleveland, meanwhile, has surprised some in the first half thanks in part to the tremendous play of rookie guard Kyrie Irving, who scored 34 points and was named the MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday.
Irving has lived up to his No. 1 overall pick status this season, averaging 18.1 points and 5.1 assists for the Cavaliers. He scored 23 points and beat the Celtics with a layup on January 29 and is averaging 22 points and six assists in two games against Boston this season.
Tonight, the Cavs wrap up a nine-game homestand. They are 8-9 in their building this season.
The Cavs have split their two meetings with the Celtics this season, but have lost three of four and four of the last six overall meetings. Boston, though, has dropped 10 of 13 and 11 of 15 in Cleveland.