OAKLAND — There were plenty of Cavaliers players who struggled in Game 1, there’s plenty of blame to go around if you’re looking to do that.
However, nobody’s off night was more glaring than Tristan Thompson‘s — just four rebounds in just 22 minutes of action. If the Cavaliers are going to have a chance in this series Thompson has to be exceptional, he has to be a force on the glass, and he will be the first to admit he was not in Game 1.
“Trash. Trash,” is how Thompson described his Game 1 before the Cavaliers practice Saturday. “I have to be better. I have to bring more energy, make it tough for them. I know they’re watching film, and something for them it’s to keep me off the glass. It’s going to be a wrestling match down there, and you have to keep it going and make it tough for them and just try to wear them out.
“Make them run a lot of pick-and-rolls. Just take it to another level. Playing against the Warriors, you can’t just play hard. You have to play hard to a level where it’s past the thermostat. It’s a different level with this team. So guys have to be reminded — I have to be reminded — that against this team, you have to go balls out.”
Golden State made a very conscious effort to get a body — or bodies — on Thompson to force him off the glass. As coach Tyronn Lue noted, that did open the door for others, as Kevin Love had five offensive rebounds in the game. Also, Lue said he limited Thompson’s minutes because once they got way down they needed more scoring, but without him on the court Cleveland’s defense suffered.
It was all very frustrating for Thompson.
“It’s definitely frustrating because you always want to play well, especially Game 1 of the NBA Finals,” he said. “You want to come out and compete. But it’s a long series. It’s like a boxing match. You have a lot of rounds, and tomorrow is Round 2. You have to be better. And it’s all in the past. You can’t get that back. You come out and you play well in Game 2, everyone will forget about Game 1. So that’s how I look at it.”
Expect the Cavaliers to play harder, smarter, and more physically in Game 2 — and Thompson will be the barometer of that.
Will that be enough is the question to be answered Sunday night.