Cavs vs. Celtics Game 2: What to know as Boston tries to solve LeBron, even series
Adjustments will be key as the Celtics try to avoid going to Cleveland in a 2-0 hole
The Celtics will take on the Cavaliers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday and everyone, with the exception of the Cavs and maybe their fans, is thinking the same thing: Can we at least get a close game?
Game 1's blowout win by the Cavs was anticlimactic, to say the least, and showed what happens when a fully rested juggernaut faces an emotionally drained underdog coming off a seven-game series. But that's all in the past now.
It's hard to believe that Game 2 will be another blowout, and we'll look to see what adjustments the Celtics make to combat the Cavs' attack on both ends. Here are five things to know about that game.
A really-really-really-should-win game
Saying a game is a "must-win" has become trite, not to mention wholly inaccurate. The only games that you truly must win are elimination games. But for Boston, Game 2 is as close as it gets. Lose Friday, head to Cleveland down 2-0, and the Celtics might as well pack brooms in their carry-on luggage. Most of our expertsand this is likely their best shot.
What to do with that LeBron guy?
There's really not much more to say about what LeBron James has been doing this postseason. He putting up an absurd near-triple-double with 38 points, nine rebounds and seven assists while doing most of his damage in the paint. James' Game 1 shot chart probably had Brad Stevens waking up in cold sweats for the past two nights.
Yeah, that's not good.
Look for the Celtics to do more to try to keep him away from the basket and force him to operate on the perimeter, but that's much easier said than done. They could send more traps and doubles his way, but that opens up the court for James to use his uncanny passing ability to find shooters. We'll just have to wait and see which poison the Celtics pick.
Celtics have a big problem
Based on Kevin Love's performance in Game 1, the best defense might be to try to separate his shoulder . Relax, I'm kidding ... kind of. Boston had no answer for Love, who put up 32 points and 12 rebounds while going 6 for 9 from the 3-point line. Tristan Thompson feasted as well, with 20 points and nine rebounds (six offensive) on a perfect 7 for 7 from the field.
The Celtics' problem all season (and all postseason) has been rebounding, particularly on the defensive end. They were able to contain Washington's Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris enough to win the series, but Love is an All-Star level rebounder while Thompson's relentless pursuit on the offensive glass has given the Cavs second-shot opportunities all season long. Boston's starters were outrebounded 35-22 by Cleveland's starters in Game 1. That's a trend that can't continue if the Celtics are going to have any hope of making this a series.
Sure, Boston was blitzed in Game 1, but a blowout Friday is highly unlikely given the circumstances -- the Celtics will come out with energy, and that will have to be led by Isaiah Thomas. An intriguing aspect of Game 2 will be how Thomas adjusts to the type of defense the Cavs played on him in Game 1. Our James Herbert , but you better believe that Thomas and Stevens have gone to the film and made some tweaks to the game plan for Friday night. If the Celtics are going to win, Thomas is going to have to get loose.
Imagine Gordon in green
A fun exercise: As you watch the series, imagine what the Celtics would look like if Jae Crowder was replaced with Utah's Gordon Hayward. After Hayward failed to make an All-NBA team, Utah's advantage in keeping the free agent-to-be (meaning the amount of cash it can offer him) got significantly smaller. If Hayward does choose to leave the Jazz, all signs point to a reunion with Stevens, who has been very close to Hawyard since he recruited him at Butler. So if Game 2 does somehow get out of hand, just picture Hayward on the wing with Markelle Fultz running the point to see whether you think that team would have a better shot of competing with the Cavs.
Cleveland took a 3-1 lead on Boston and will look to close it out Thursday
Boston had a 16-point lead at one point
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The Cavs clobbered the Celtics by 44 in Game 2