By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics are looking to build off their blowout win on Sunday and shove the Cleveland Cavaliers into a 2-0 series hole on Tuesday night.
While it looked relativity easy in Game 1, the Celtics are expecting a much better showing by the Cavs on Tuesday.
“We know it will be a heavyweight punch,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said of Game 2. “We’ve got to be locked in to play well on both ends of the court.”
The Boston defense held the Cavaliers to just 36 percent shooting in Game 1. Still, Stevens says his team has to be better.
“They missed some shots that they would hit normally,” Stevens said. “We had a few rotations that we were a little late on. We’ve got to clean those up. We’ve got to be more decisive. We’ve got to be better.”
It’s hard to imagine the Celtics, who built a 28-point lead at one point, playing any better than they did on Sunday. But it’s extremely likely the Cavaliers will be better, and that should make for a much more exciting game.
Here’s what we’ll be watching for when Game 2 tips off at the TD Garden:
Will LeBron Show Up?
LeBron was pretty bad in Game 1 and was sulking on the bench for most of the fourth quarter. The Celtics defense deserves loads of credit for keeping him to 15 points on 5-for-16 shooting, and 0-for-5 from downtown, even if some are questioning his effort during the loss.
But chances are LeBron will not be much, much better in Game 2. He’s probably ready to explode after that lackluster showing, especially since he remembers just about every play thanks to his awe-inspiring postgame recollection (besides one of his team-high seven turnovers, which he conveniently left out of his play-by-play with reporters). And when LeBron isn’t all that great in Game 1, he tends to follow it up with a big Game 2 (unless he’s playing the Warriors in the NBA Finals).
In the first-round against the Pacers, James scored just 24 points on 7-for-17 shooting in his first-ever opening round Game 1 loss. He dominated in Cleveland’s Game 2 win, dropping 46 points on 17-for-24 shooting. In his seven career Game 1 losses, LeBron shot just 31.3 percent from the floor. In the following six Game 2s, he upped his shooting percentage to 41.2 percent. His teams are 3-3 in those games, and LeBron is 32-11 in his career in Game 2.
Stevens knows James is not going to be the same player they saw in Game 1.
“Nobody has been better at making adjustments over the course of time than him,” he said on Monday. “That’s the great challenge of having to play against a team like this and a player like him.”
Chances are LeBron is going to be much more aggressive on Tuesday night, and we won’t see him deferring to teammates and loafing on defense. The Celtics are expecting to see him driving more and taking matters into his own hands, which is usually his recipe for a monster game. But if Marcus Morris & Co. can continue to make LeBron work for all of those drives, force him into a handful of bad jumpers, and make him rely on his teammates, they should head to Cleveland with a 2-0 series lead.
Will Tristan Thompson In Starting Lineup Mean Anything For Cavs?
The Cavs apparently have an answer for their Game 1 struggles, and it’s inserting Tristan Thompson in the starting lineup. When LeBron James speaks, Ty Lue does whatever he’s told.
But this isn’t just LeBron playing puppet master and Lue going wherever the strings lead him; there is some logic behind the decision. Thompson has given the Celtics fits in the past, especially Al Horford, and provides some protection for Kevin Love, whom Horford took to school on Sunday.
Against a Cavaliers lineup that featured Thompson last postseason, Horford averaged just 12.4 points and shot a relatively pedestrian 46 percent from the floor (pedestrian considering he’s hitting 59 percent of his shots this postseason). Thompson pulled down 11 rebounds in his 21 minutes on Sunday, and he out-muscled the Celtics in the paint last postseason, averaging over seven boards per game through Cleveland’s five-game win.
Thompson in the starting lineup may have Brad Stevens reconsider starting Morris, instead opting to have Aron Baynes back in the starting five. But Brad is too smart to fall for those games, especially after Morris turned in a great showing on offense and on defense against LeBron in Game 1.
Cleveland’s shooter-centric lineup failed them in Game 1, so they’re going big in Game 2. But Thompson isn’t a cure-all; he may help them win a matchup, but they’re going to need a lot more if the Celtics play like they did in Game 1 on Tuesday night.
Who Is Feeling It From Downtown?
Boston starters were feeling it from three-point range on Sunday, hitting 10 of their 21 attempts. The Celtics bench wasn’t as effective, hitting just one of their nine shots, but 11-for-30 overall is a good night from distance.
The Cavaliers were not as good from long-range. They were downright abysmal, going 4-for-26. LeBron missed all five of his three-point attempts (when he’s a three-point shooter, that’s a win for the Celtics), with Kevin Love going 1-for-4, Kyle Korver 1-for-5 and J.R. Smith 0-for-3. According to NBA.com’s stats page, the Cavs were just 3-for-16 on their “wide-open” threes, defined as shots taken with no defender within six feet. Three of those open looks were taken by LeBron.
Odds are the Cavaliers will hit a few more of those “wide-open” looks if they get them again in Game 2, and odds are they’ll get more than 12 points out of their three-point attempts. But if the Celtics can keep getting a body on their quality shooters, and give their questionable ones free space to keep launching bricks, maybe those struggles from downtown will continue for the Cavaliers.
Can Rozier Bounce Back?
It’s been the Summer of Scary Terry and if he can help guide the Celtics to the NBA Finals, we may even see his signature spaghetti and ranch sandwiches popping up at delis around town. It probably wouldn’t be a great seller, but crazier things have happened.
While he usually plays much better at home than on the road, Rozier was a bit of a no-show in Game 1. The C’s guard was just 4-for-10 from the floor and missed all three of his three-point bids, finishing with a modest eight points in Sunday’s victory. He played some strong D throughout and dished out eight assists to go with six rebounds, but he didn’t have the scoring punch we’ve become accustomed to seeing.
It didn’t matter in a blowout win, but if the Celtics find themselves in a much tighter tilt on Tuesday, they’re going to need Rozier and his fancy finger roll to keep the Cavs honest in the paint.