WALTHAM, Mass. – The Celtics aren’t sure what Cleveland has up its sleeve for Game 2 on Tuesday night.
But considering the lopsided nature of Game 1, one thing they can count on is Cleveland making some very real adjustments, something you expect to see after Boston’s 108-83 pummeling of the Cavs in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday.
At the top of that list may be a lineup change, one in which Cavs coach Tyron Lue is contemplating starting Tristan Thompson to help neutralize Celtics big man Al Horford.
Thompson’s last postseason start was Game 7 of Cleveland’s first-round series win over Indiana. He finished with a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds, with that 15 being the most he has scored this postseason.
"Looking at the statistics, over the last three years with at least 30 possessions [defending Al Horford], out of all the guys that have guarded Al Horford, Tristan is No. 1 in the league defending Al Horford," Lue told reporters Tuesday. "So, that's a good thing, you know?"
Beyond a personnel change, the Cavs will also need to adjust their effort and intensity levels, which were both on the relatively low side in Boston’s decisive 25-point win.
“They're going to be more aggressive,” said Celtics center Aron Baynes. “We know they're going to come out and try to dictate things, and it's on us to step up to the challenge and really try to assert our defense at the same time. They're going to come out and try to move the ball a little bit more. We did a good job of getting them to take the shots we wanted and a lot of those were contested. It's about us trying to stay locked in on defense. We've got to play a lot better. There's a lot of room for improvement.”
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Thompson added, “As a team, 1 through 5, we've got to all play tougher. Obviously, when I check into the game, I try to bring that toughness and energy. Our starters have to be ready to throw the first punch. We need them to do that. We need them to be physical and set the tone early. If they do that from the opening tip, that makes it easier for the second unit to come in and keep the energy going.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens is aware that he could potentially see a different Cavs starting lineup on Tuesday.
“Well, I think any time you're playing Cleveland, first and foremost, it's about LeBron and then about the shooters and players around him,” Stevens said. “Whoever they put on the floor, we're going to have to help appropriately, depending on who's on the floor, and we're going to have to guard him as hard as we can, which is easier said than done. I'm guessing he'll be a part of that lineup, so that's -- our focus and emphases will remain the same.”
Depending on whether Thompson starts, the Celtics may also look to make a lineup change with Baynes in for Marcus Morris.
Morris, starting in Game 1 on Sunday, tallied his first career playoff double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
One of the reasons Stevens elected to go with Morris over Baynes, was to keep Baynes matched up with Thompson, in addition to forcing Kevin Love to have to defend Horford, who hit his first seven shots and finished with 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting.
Love was among the Cleveland players who struggled in Game 1, tallying 17 points on 5-for-14 shooting.
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“You know, typically in feel-out games, we don’t want to be down in such a manner that we got in [Game 1],” Love said. “But we feel like we can look at a number of things and just be better in Game 2.”