The Celtics are coming off a very impressive win over the Cavaliers in Game 1. LeBron was, to put it nicely, a bit off. His supporting cast didn’t play much better and the Cavs seemed to be a bit disjointed throughout the game. The Celtics played hard and executed their game plan on both ends of the court with the result being a 25 point win.
It is safe to say that Tyronn Lue and LeBron James will make some adjustments to try to counter what the Celtics did to look so dominant. Although the Cavs Game Notes list the same starters for this game as they had in Game 1, one of those changes may be to move Tristan Thompson to the starting lineup with Kevin Love at power forward and LeBron James at small forward.
If they keep both Love and Thompson in the starting lineup, one of their shooters will go to the bench and my guess it will be Korver because of his defensive limitations. LeBron may want to try his luck at matching up with the Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum. Whatever lineup changes are made, the biggest change that has to be made by the Cavs is their energy and effort.
Lue has pretty much tipped his hand that Thompson will start but whether he keeps Love with the starters isn’t known. Brad Stevens hasn’t said whether he will change the lineup or not. He may counter with Baynes with the starters or may stay with his smaller lineup. We probably won’t know either lineup for certain until just before game time with neither coach wanting to tip their hands too soon.
The above Cavs lineup is just a guess. Lue may stand pat and hope that added effort may be enough or he may just swap Love and Thompson and leave the rest of his lineup the same. The Celtics once again will be without Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Daniel Theis and Shane Larkin. Although all of those players were at the game on Sunday, cheering their teammates on. The Cavaliers still have no injuries to report and are at full strength.
Since 2009, the Cavs are 16-3 in Game Twos of any series (25-19 record all-time in Game Twos). When trailing 0-1, the Cavs have gone on to win five series in their postseason history, including this year’s First Round matchup against Indiana. Cleveland is 8-2 in their last 10 playoff games against Boston (5-1 on road). Including the regular season, the Cavs are 17-7 versus the Celtics since 2014-15 (9-4 on road).
Probable Celtics Starters
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Daniel Theis (knee) out
Kyrie Irving (knee) out
Shane Larkin (shoulder) questionable
Probable Cavaliers Starters
Larry Nance Jr
Al Horford vs Tristan Thompson
Thompson has been effective in the past in guarding Horford and has also been a beast on the boards. Horford (or Baynes) needs to box out Thompson and do their best to keep him out of the paint. Just as with LeBron, the Celtics have to be ready to take the Cavs best effort in this one. They were embarrassed in Game 1 and will look to save face with a strong effort in this game.
Marcus Morris vs LeBron James
Marcus Morris did a great job in limiting LeBron to 15 points on 31% shooting and 0-5 from beyond the arc. Hd had 7 rebounds and 9 assists but also turned the ball over 7 times. If, as I mentioned above, Lue changes his lineup to move Tristan Thompson to the starting lineup, Brad may counter with a move of his own. Whoever guards LeBron needs to be ready for much more energy and effort from him in this game and be ready to counter it.
Jaylen Brown vs JR Smith
If Lue sends Korver to the bench, Brown will have a tougher matchup with Smith, who has been known to play dirty at times. Hopefully Jaylen can adapt and have another big game for the Celtics. Smith is inconsistent and may have a big game or may have another game where he struggles, no matter who guards him.
Celtics Bench vs Cavaliers Bench
The Celtics reserves scored 20 points in Game 1 while their counterparts from the Cavs bench scored 37. The Celtics starters had it going in this one while the Cavs starters did not. If any of the Celtics starters struggle in Game 2, the reserves coming in have to be ready to step up and make a bigger impact in this one.
Keys to the Game
Defense Defense Defense!! Defense is key to winning every game. The Cavs are averaging 101.8 points (12th) while the Celtics are averaging 104.4 points (8th). The Celtics are 4th with a defensive rating of 104.3 while the Cavs are 10th with a defensive rating of 108.9. The Celtics won Game 1 with their swarming lock down defense, holding the Cavs to 83 points. If they want to win this game, they will need more of the same.
Rebound - This was the Celtics’ biggest weakness last season but the team has more length and more athleticism this season and are rebounding much better. Much of rebounding is effort and so the Celtics have to work hard to beat the Cavs to rebounds. The Cavs are averaging 38.6 rebounds while the Celtics are averaging 42.8 rebounds. The Celtics out-rebounded the Cavs 48-40 in Game 1 and they will need to work even harder on the boards in this game.
Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the more aggressive team. They have to beat the Cavs to every loose ball and win the 50/50 plays. They have to be aggressive on the boards and in driving into the paint and to the basket. The more aggressive team will usually get the benefit of the doubt from the refs but sometimes that doesn’t work with LeBron. The Celtics have to be the team that works harder and the team that wants it more. They were more aggressive in Game 1 and will need to do the same in this game.
Start Strong and Play 48 Minutes - After getting hit hard by the Celtics in Game 1, especially in the first quarter, the Cavs will likely come out strong in this game and look to play much harder from the beginning. The Celtics can’t start out slowly and allow the Cavs to get a big lead as they are a tough team to come back against. They also can’t afford to let up at any time in the game or the Cavs will make them pay for it. The Celtics must start strong and play hard throughout the game. No let up!!!
Control LeBron’s Supporting Cast - It’s almost impossible to stop a player like LeBron who gets the benefit of most of the calls and can drive and dip his shoulder into any defenders as he goes to the basket. But, the Celtics can slow down Love, Korver, Hill and Smith along with the players off the bench. They have to make it as tough on LeBron as they can on both ends of the court but they have to clamp down on his teammates and try to stop them.
Move the Ball - The Celtics get into trouble when they take quick shots and don’t move the ball enough to get the defense out of position. Their assists are usually down in their losses and up in the wins. They have to move the ball and find the open man. No hero ball. They also have to be careful with their passes and not turn the ball over as the Cavs are averaging 15.3 points off turnovers.
Focus - The Celtics came out focused in Game 1 and executed their game plan very well to beat the Cavs in Game 1. It is easy to lose focus after a big win like that and expect another easy win in Game 2, but that would be a big mistake. The Celtics need to come out focused and play like it is Game 7 to protect their home court.
Home Game - The Celtics have the advantage of playing at home in front of what should be another very loud crowd. The Celtics have to get motivation and energy from the crowd. The Cavs are a more experienced team than the young Bucks and Sixers and may not be rattled by the Celtics crowd but they can sometimes influence the refs and boost the home team. Al Horford said that the crowd carried them in Game 1 and hopefully they will do so in this one as well.
Officiating - The officiating is always an x-factor. In some games so far the officiating was very good and they let both teams play and let some contact go both ways but didn’t let it get out of hand. In some others the refs were not good and called it more one sided. In Game 1, the officiating was good and they let both teams play. Hopefully we avoid Tony Brothers and Scott Foster and have fair and even officiating in Game 2.
Lead ref Mike Callahan can be good or he can be bad. He usually lets the teams play and isn’t a tyrant with the whistle but still makes some head scratching calls from time to time. His home team win percentage is 54% and he 50.6% of his calls are against the road team. The Celtics are 8-2 in their last 10 games with Callahan as a referee with 8 of those games going into overtime. He called Games 1 and 6 vs the Bucks and Game 2 vs the Sixers. All in all, he’s one of the better refs.
Derrick Stafford can be a hot head and has been quick to call technicals in the past. He has been disciplined for getting into a shouting match with former Celtics assistant Lawrence Frank. He is one of the few refs in the league who favors the road teams with a home W/L record of 32-34. He averages 39 fouls called per game and 50.8% of those are called on the home team. The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games. He called game 7 against the Bucks and they let both teams play without calling a lot of fouls on either team.
Sean Wright called Game 2 vs the Bucks and Game 2 vs the Sixers. Like most refs, he can be good or bad. He was decent in both of those games. It was Sean Wright that Rondo threw the ball at resulting in his ejection and suspension in 2012. In one game with Wright last season, Tommy called him an idiot after one particularly bad call. The Celtics are 8-2 in their last 10 games with Wright. His home W/L record this season is 42-19. He calls an average of 40 fouls per game with 52.6% of those called on the home team.