Boston’s passing, player movement, and pace torched the Cavaliers defense in Game 1 — and they did it getting inside. Boston had 60 points in the paint and met little resistance there, shooting 22-of-30 at the rim and 8-of-15 from floater range. Al Horford did as he pleased against Kevin Love and started 7-of-7 shooting, while the Cavaliers recognition and help rotations were unimpressive. To put it kindly.
All that led to a lot of speculation the Cavaliers would start Tristan Thompson in Game 2. At an off-day practice Monday, Tyronn Lue sounded like a guy who was going to start Thompson on Tuesday night, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“Looking at the statistics, over the last three years with at least 30 possessions [defending him], out of all the guys that have guarded Al Horford, Tristan is No. 1 in the league defending Al Horford,” Lue said. “So that’s a good thing, you know?”
“We weighed (starting Thompson) before the series started, but we’d won seven out of eight and we weren’t going to adjust until someone beat us and we didn’t play well with that lineup that got us to this point,” Lue said.
All of that happened Monday. Nothing is official, and this is the playoffs so smokescreens are everywhere, but this sounds like Lue is leaning toward going big (which would move Kyle Korver to a bench role).
Thompson wasn’t exactly dominating in Game 1, but he did have eight points and 11 rebounds — four offensive — in 21 minutes off the bench. He was -12 in those 21 minutes, Love was -13 in his 30. Still, Thompson provides a level of defense and presence in the paint Cleveland lacked and Boston exploited in Game 1.
The biggest challenge for the Cavaliers in starting Thompson is he can’t space the floor as a shooter, allowing Horford — or Aron Baynes, who would get more playing time — to stay close to the rim and protect it. This is the Celtics, the coaching staff will have thought through how to attack when Thompson is on the floor, and the players will stick to the game plan with religious fervor.
Whoever starts, Cleveland is going to be better in Game 2. LeBron James is going to look a lot more like the best player on the planet, the Cavaliers are not going to shoot 0-of-12 from three in the first half, and the defensive effort should be better. Game 2 is not going to be a blowout. But will all that and more Thompson be enough to take one on the road? That’s another question.