Cleveland has an OffRtg of 117.0 in the post-season. That's best in the NBA. What's Boston's best defensive strategy in slowing down the Cavs' offense?
Jeff Clark: Hope they miss? The same principles apply as they do against any team in this modern game. You have to have crisp rotations, communicate, and close out on shooters. It wouldn't hurt to limit their transition opportunities and defend the ball handler so they get into their offense later in the shot clock. But when a team can spread the floor with shooters and the largest point guard in the world is slicing through the lane, you just have to execute the best you can and hope their shots aren't falling.
Keith Smith: Everyone has to be on the same page defensively. No blown switches. No breakdowns in transition. If guys get to the rim, foul them and don't let them get the shot up. Mostly, the Celtics have to finish possessions with rebounds. If Tristan Thompson (who I think is the key player for the Cavs in the series) is getting 5 or more offensive rebounds a game, Boston is sunk. They will have to work too hard on one defensive possession to get a stop. They can't extend that to having to do it two and three times.
Lachlan Marr: Have they considered turning to prayer? No, seriously it’s going to be a tough series and the Cavaliers’ offensive system is something to behold when it gets rolling. But if the Celtics can force the Cavs to shoot the shots the Celtics want them taking then they might just have a chance. It’s going to take the toughest, hardest and most hustling defense in all the NBA to slow down LeBron and company, luckily that’s exactly what the Celtics like to describe themselves as so now is the time to show the world what they can do.
Sean Penney: Rebounding is one area that is a major concern for Boston heading into this series. It's difficult for them to go small if Love and Thompson are both on the court because it magnifies their advantage on the glass. They'll need to keep Amir in the starting rotation to try to match size with Cleveland and hope the guards can gang rebound enough to narrow the margin.
Alex Kungu: Slowing down the role guys. Celtics may not have a great answer for Lebron James, but they do have a roster that can do a solid job defending the rest of the Cavaliers roster. Win those matchups, turn Lebron James into a jump shooter, and maybe you have a chance.
Bill Sy: The Celtics only outrebounded the Bulls or Wizards in one game (Game 5 vs. Washington) in this post-season. I don’t expect them to beat the bigger Cavs on the boards either, but they’re going to have to generate turnovers. Of the four remaining teams, Cleveland has averaged the most TO’s. For Boston to have a chance, they’re going to have to be able to get 15-20 points in transition and use their speed in the passing lanes to turn defense into instant offense against the slower and older Cavaliers.
Jared Weiss: This comes down to the LeBron switching discussed in our other preview piece on stopping LeBron. But there is also a crucial component in transition defense. The Celtics have prioritized early run backs on shots to prevent transition, which was crucial against Washington and is an even bigger imperative against Cleveland. they can’t get caught in matchup confusion running back, since Kevin Love and LeBron make every defensive rebound a transition play. That’s how LeBron teams go on their big runs that shut the door in the playoffs. The Celtics will start big with Amir Johnson so they don’t get buried by Love and Tristan Thompson’s offensive rebounding early, but they’re going to go small for the rest of the game. If they’re gonna get crushed on the glass, they better at least have four guys inside the three-point line before the ball crosses half court. Al Horford continues to try to pressure the rebounder while his team gets back, but he won’t be able to get away with that against Cleveland.