BOSTON (CBS) – Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between the Celtics and Cavaliers is in the books, and for 48 minutes the men in green did everything they could to dislodge a star-studded Cleveland team.
But the other team has LeBron James. And that team is now up 2-0.READ MORE: Storms Cave In Roof At Somerville Auto Body Shop
James showed us all yet again why he is still king, scoring half of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter to finally close out a scrappy Boston Celtics squad, 99-91. As the series now shifts to Boston, Brad Stevens must devise a plan to turn the tides and give his team what they have earned but haven’t accomplished through two games — a win.
Here’s what to watch for in Game 3 of Celtics-Cavaliers:
The Pick & Roll Battle
Going down the stretch in Game 2, both teams relied heavily on the pick and roll to get things going on offense. And interestingly enough, neither team could stop the other from penetrating and taking advantage of poor defense from the hedging big men.
In the second half it was Isaiah Thomas attacking the cup relentlessly while LeBron James and Kyrie Irving did the same for Cleveland. This is important because if Boston wants to protect home court, they need to play better ball screen defense at the top of the key. Obviously this is easier said than done as Kevin Love and J.R. Smith lurk around the perimeter waiting for a kick-out three, but the two sharpshooters were a combined 2-13 behind the arc in Game 2.
LeBron and Kyrie (56 points) are what’s killing the Celtics. Double team the screen, pack it in the paint, do something to stop the Cavs’ pick and roll game. Make the other players beat you.READ MORE: Hynes Convention Center Closes As Mass Vaccination Site
Tuesday’s game was a clear indicator of who is taking the big shots for a Boston team that’s without a bonafide star, and it’s not a starter. It’s Isaiah Thomas, who kept the C’s in the game with his baseline-to-baseline hustle. Look for Thomas to control the ball even more so in Game 3 because crunch-time of Game 2 featured four Celtics players unsure of themselves while Thomas orchestrated the offense.
IT4 taking the shots in the fourth quarter hasn’t worked for the Celtics thus far, but he is their only player who can consistently create his own shot at any given time and draw help from other defenders.
The Celtics forced the Cavs into 18 turnovers in Game 2 but only scored 22 points off them. Winning the turnover battle is huge, but Boston needs to take advantage of those extra possessions because the margin for error is slim-to-none when playing Cleveland. Look for the C’s to crank it up on defense even more on their patchwork court and try to get LeBron & crew to be indecisive with the ball.
Stop The Starters, Stop The Cavs
The only players the Celtics need to worry about stopping are the five that start the game for Cleveland. In Game 2, Boston’s bench outscored Cleveland 51-7 (22 from Isaiah Thomas certainly helps) which means that the Celtics needs to take advantage of Cleveland’s lack of depth when substitutions are made throughout the game. LeBron is obviously a horse — he sat for just six minutes total on Tuesday — but there are holes in Cleveland’s lineup that need to be exploited when available.MORE NEWS: Keller @ Large: Talks Drag Over Infrastructure Bill, But One Side Has The Upper Hand
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