Rob is a contributor to The Five By 5 and Eastern Conference savant.
After getting absolutely throttled by the Boston Celtics by way of a 108-83 score, look for Cleveland to try some things differently in Game 2. There was some glimmers of hope, some missed shots, and well... a not so King size effort by LeBron James that all lead to the blowout. This is what I think the Cavs need to change for Game 2.
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Lineup wise in Game 1, “Jordan Crawford”, excuse me, I mean Clarkson (for sure not a mistaken jab by LeBron James in his post game press conference), was abysmal.He can’t see the court when he’s going to play like that. Irrational confidence can sometimes be a useful tool, but in the playoffs you need to find out quickly if a guy like him has it, or doesn't (or the game to back it up). If he doesn’t have it, you can really dig yourself into a hole against the best teams. For example there was a possession in which LeBron had position on Terry Rozier in the post, but Clarkson opted for a mildly contested mid-range jumper. While it may sound odd, I would prefer to use those 18 minutes spent on Clarkson, and instead have a combination of Cedi Osman and Jose Calderon to fill that time . Yes, Calderon is a complete siv on defense, but Boston is attacking and putting anyone not named LeBron in pick and roll any way. At least Calderon can handle the stage and calm things down; while the 6’ 8’’ Turkish born Osman gives them more flexibility on pick and roll switches. Also of note, I feel like I have watched every single one of Osmans' 672 minutes this year, though albeit a good amount in garbage time, the kid competes like hell. Effort like that could be infectious to what was a motor-less squad in Game 1.
Bostons’ defense was on point Sunday afternoon; they flew around the court together as one unit with precise ease. But even defensive efforts like that can’t always hold a team like the Cavs to 31.9% shooting from the field as it did in the first half. Cleveland shot a pathetic 14.3% from deep, including 0 for 12 in the first half. This won't likely continue. Even if they make 5 more threes, (which would put them at right around league average at 34%), it could have totally changed the way Game 1 was played.
Another place the Cavs need to shoot better from is at the rim. Their 14 of 25 shooting at the rim puts them in the 22nd worst percentile (per cleaningtheglass.com). A team that good, can’t keep shooting, that bad. Guaranteed, they will shoot it better come Game 2. This team is way too talented to be shooting an effective field goal percentage of 38.5% in multiple games this series.
Cleveland has to communicate better on offense, point blank, period. Boston threw a different wrinkle at the Cavs every time they would get the Celtics (mainly Terry Rozier) in an undesirable switch. The closest man to Rozier, (doesn't matter who as they played 5 out the whole game) would literally blitz to Roziers' man as soon as the entry pass was thrown. Once there, Rozier would sprint to whoever came over to help. Now this seems simple and not that difficult, but to execute at the level Boston did last night is next level stuff. The NBA is usually too fast for a tactic to work multiple times, especially in a 7 game series, and as you can imagine it will become easy to exploit. Yet, Boston continued to execute it flawlessly. The Cavs need better communication there and either need to be able to exploit the miss match, or the tagging that Boston does. The Celtics defense isn't going away, and being able to get others, not named LeBron James, easy buckets off these plays are crucial to for the Cavs to have success.
Game 2 Outlook:
I see this upcoming game as being a bounce back game, in the sense Cleveland will be in it throughout. A locked in LeBron James, with a team that makes those few more buckets like normal, will be able to close the gap on Boston. If it is close late in the game though, LeBron will have to literally do everything for them to win (as has been the case for quite some time now). The Celtics execute at too high of a level to stop most scoring, and their defense can keep the non-LeBron players off the scoreboard. It should be a compelling series going forward, and for Cavs fans, with LeBron, all is not lost just yet.
LeBron James & Jayson Tatum: defpen.com
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