Game one of the Celtics-Cavaliers matchup was nothing short of disappointing. Kyrie's memorable day helped Cleveland best the Celtics by 13 points. However, had the Celtics limited turnover errors and had rebounded more, who knows how this game would've ended?
It was a sloppy game on both ends of the floor for the Celtics. Only two players (Isaiah Thomas and Jonas Jerebko) posted a positive +/-. Avery Bradley, one of the only playoff experienced Celtic, shot 3-10 from the field and air-balled some crucial shots. Kelly Olynyk started the game hot but got into foul trouble. These simple errors made beating Boston look like a field day, but cut down on a few of those mistakes and this would have been a completely different ball game.
There aren't many ways to beat LeBron and his Cavs, but keeping the ball out of their hands is one way to do it. On Sunday, the Celtics committed 14 turnovers, five of which came from Boston's number one scorer, Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics went through the regular season with minimal TOs, boasting a 13.1 turnover percentage.
Thomas committed two of those off-balanced, jumping passes while being double or triple teamed. His 5-9 stature makes it hard for him to see the floor, but those types of passes are unacceptable in a tight playoff game.
The Cavs scored 14 points off turnover, which isn't such a high number, but get rid of a few turnovers and that makes a 6 or 7 point game.
Over the season, the Celtics managed to rebound the ball at an average rate despite their lack of size. In Sunday's game, it seemed as though the big men in green were afraid to contend for a rebound. They grabbed 64.3% of available defensive rebounds, which means Cleveland was able to score off second chance points. In the end, the Cavs had 15 offensive rebounds that translated to 18 second chance points. Let that sink in. Isaiah Thomas was the second leading rebounder on the Celtics with 5 rebounds. Zeller and Olynyk were no where to be seen on the glass.
Cleveland had just one true center in the rotation (Timofey Mozgov), so Boston needed to capitalize on Cleveland's lack of big man depth. It was just a matter of who wanted the ball more and the Celtics did not put up the fight that Cleveland did.
Game two in Cleveland will not be an easy game to win with all the momentum the Cavs possess. However, it can be done with the right game plan.
1) Get Mozgov out of the paint
Part of the reason the Cavaliers had such a quick turnaround in the middle of the season is mostly due to the acquisition of Timofey Mozgov. Mozgov adds a defensive dynamic to a team with many below average defenders (besides...ya know...LeBron). If the Celtics can make their shots, especially Kelly Olynyk or even Tyler Zeller, the paint will be spaced out. Draw Mozgov out of the paint and that leaves more room for Isaiah Thomas to do his magic.
2) Move the ball (extra pass)
Brad Stevens can change this series if he draws up the right plays and emphasizes the importance of the extra pass. Most players in green are capable of scoring inside and out, so ball movement is key. It also keeps the defense on its toes the entire game. If the Celtics can move the ball with speed, the Cavs will get lost and eventually leave a man open.
3) Play your role
In game one, it seemed as though some players were trying to do too much. The regular season proved that if everyone plays their role, wins will come. When Avery Bradley realized he wasn't hitting his shot, he should have took his focus away from scoring for some time. Tyler Zeller needs to be tough and crash the boards. Cleveland's lack of big man depth needs to be exposed, so when Boston's 7 footers are in the game together, the rebounds should be theirs.
Game one is in the books and should be a lesson to the young team that unforced errors are unacceptable in the playoffs, especially against a team with a transition game like the Cavs. To have success in this series, everyone needs to be all in.