BOSTON — The Boston Celtics crushed the Cleveland Cavaliers on the inside in Sport 1 of the Jap Convention finals, profiting from Cleveland’s lack of a shot-blocker and the smooth pick-and-roll protection to attain 60 factors within the paint.
That is a crushing, virtually embarrassing, quantity. When was the final time the Cavs even gave up so many paint factors?
All the way in which again to per week and a half in the past, after they gave up 62 to the Toronto Raptors in a 128-110 Sport 2 victory. And that proper there explains among the complexity of this model of the Cavs.
Sooner or later in the course of the common season, coach Ty Lue made a calculated concession. It was most likely across the time the Cavs elected to not execute a deal for rim safety specialist DeAndre Jordan of the LA Clippers on the commerce deadline and as a substitute moved so as to add a group of perimeter gamers.
The Cavs have been not often, if ever, going to win with protection. They ranked 29th in defensive effectivity within the common season. Within the playoffs, Cleveland’s numbers have improved. However they’re nonetheless 10th out of 16 groups thus far, and the one member of the ultimate 4 group within the convention finals outdoors of the highest 4 in playoff protection.
Figuring out this, and understanding he did not actually have the personnel to do a lot about it, Lue determined to make use of recreation plans that simply centered on merely outscoring the opposition. Surrender a bunch of factors as a result of they’ve some defensive weak spots, sure, however deploy shooting-first lineups round LeBron James to outgun the opponent on the different finish.
That is how the Cavs bought to Sport 1 of a convention finals with a beginning lineup that included Kyle Korver and Kevin Love, two of the weaker defenders at their positions within the league. Within the sequence in opposition to the Raptors, Love and Korver mixed to shoot 48 % from Three-point vary and the Cavs as a workforce shot 41 %. Consequently, plenty of factors — and never so many worries concerning the paint factors. 4 wins in 4 tries.
For all of the credit score being given to Boston coach Brad Stevens and his recreation plans, having Al Horford go after Love and Jaylen Brown go after Korver was hardly next-level strategizing. It regarded actually good when the Cavs missed their first 14 Three-pointers and missed 22 of 26 total. It is hardly a super actuality for a workforce chasing a championship, but when the Cavs do not shoot nicely, then it is onerous for them to win at this degree.
“We had a bad game,” Lue mentioned succinctly. “I think missing shots offensively kind of carried over to our defense.”
Understanding that is vital when contemplating what the Cavs have to guage going ahead within the sequence, beginning with Tuesday’s Sport 2. From a primary tactical viewpoint, it makes excellent sense for Lue to regulate his lineup and take out Korver and put in Tristan Thompson, a greater defender however a a lot weaker shooter.
When discussing the transfer Monday, Lue referenced Thompson’s defensive stats in opposition to Horford through the years. Right here they’re, by way of Second Spectrum monitoring: Horford averages 14.96 factors per 100 possessions when guarded by Thompson, his worst mark in opposition to any defender with at the least 300 matchup possessions within the league.
Seeing as Horford crushed the Cavs within the pick-and-roll in Sport 1, it looks like a straightforward transfer to advertise Thompson. However as with many issues with the Cavs, it is not easy. A case might even be made that going to Thompson within the beginning lineup is taking part in into the Celtics’ arms as a result of it takes an important Three-point shooter off the ground and makes the Cavs play extra conventionally. And conventionally they’re nonetheless a horrible defensive workforce.
That is why when the subject of a lineup modified was raised, the Celtics did not precisely cower.
“Well they become more traditional [with Thompson],” Horford mentioned. “With Love at the 5, you have everybody out there that can shoot the ball. With Tristan, it’s more traditional coverages, being in the paint a lot more.”
Within the first-round sequence in opposition to the Indiana Pacers, the Cavs struggled offensively. Lue mulled whether or not to go to Thompson till Sport 7, lastly inserting him within the beginning lineup. He did not keep there, as Lue put Thompson again on the bench in the course of the Raptors sequence.
On stability, Lue nonetheless retains going again to what he determined in the course of the common season concerning the Cavs’ nature, which is that they put their greatest foot ahead after they assume offense first.
“Three-point shots are a part of our DNA,” James mentioned. “It’s what makes us the best team that we can be.”
Figuring out how the Celtics play and the way they hunt matchup benefits, this was a choice level for the Cavs’ teaching employees within the run-up to the sequence. Simply because Sport 1 went the way in which it did would not actually make it simpler.
“We weighed it before the series started,” Lue mentioned. “But we won seven out of eight, and we weren’t going to adjust until someone beat us. We had played well with that lineup, and it got us to this point. Yes, we have to weigh that decision.”