There are no shortage of stories from Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Some of them aren’t deep enough to get their own article, so here are some notes from a wild game:
- LeBron James was out of his mind in the first quarter. He hit 8-of-13 shots, including 4-of-7 from behind the arc. But Boston didn’t overreact and change their defensive plan. They were contesting shots and James was hitting some that weren’t sustainable. For the rest of the game, James was a more human 8-of-16 and 1-of-4 on three-pointers.
- Despite locking in and holding Cleveland to just 39 second half points, Brad Stevens will have plenty of clips to show his guys of poor defense. Especially when it comes to guarding the Kevin Love/Kyle Korver screen game. The Cavs broke this action out late in their first round series against the Indiana Pacers and it’s created some havoc. In Game 1, Boston simply switched it. For whatever reason they overreacted in Game 2 and regularly got caught in no-man’s land. This in part allowed Love and Korver to combine for 13-of-26 shooting and four triples.
- No one but Marcus Smart makes plays like these two:
Both steals came at big points in the game. As is popular to say around the Celtics: they were #WinningPlays.
- Cleveland made the first lineup adjustment by inserting Tristan Thompson and putting Korver on the bench. Stevens stuck with what worked in Game 1. Despite some early issues on the boards, Boston bounced back to out-rebound the Cavs 46-45 overall and 11-8 on the offensive glass. It was a team effort, as Al Horford had 10 rebounds, but six other Celtics had between four and six rebounds.
- Jaylen Brown has embraced pushing the ball to get early offense:
Brown gets the ball from Aron Baynes off a rebound. When he hits the halfcourt circle in his own end, he makes up his mind he’s taking it to the rim.
Similar type of play in the second half. In both, Brown reads that there is no rim protector back and immediately makes up his mind to go. Despite improvements, the Celtics can still struggle to create offense at times without Kyrie Irving. Stealing early offense like this helps them a ton.
- Going along with the above theme of struggling to create offense, two things Boston will do now is to relentlessly hunt mismatches and to ride the hot hand. Jayson Tatum was this guy in the second quarter, as he scored nine (of his 11 total points) consecutive points. Most of these came when he had Thompson on him and went to work with off the dribble jumpers. In the third quarter, Terry Rozier took over, as he scored 14 of his 18 points. Rozier got a lot of his buckets after Cleveland switched bigger players on him. With limited creators, the Celtics have to be creative as a team and Stevens bleeds a play or mismatch until it runs dry.
- Brad Stevens hinted that he could change the lineup. Our guy Bill Sy has some thoughts coming and noted this:
Starting lineup last night had a NetRtg of -50.1 over nine minutes. FWIW, the Celtics didn't make their run in the third quarter until Aron Baynes replaced Jayson Tatum at the 9:36 mark. If Cleveland stays big (or goes bigger with LBJ-Love-TT), MM-Al-Baynes could be the move. https://t.co/goP1wITIqG— Bill Sy (@deliberatepix) May 16, 2018
With Tatum struggling to get going early in games, Stevens could put him on the bench and then take advantage with him carrying a second unit that could use some scoring punch.
- Boston has gotten a lot of love and respect over the past week or so, as a team, as individual players and for Stevens and Danny Ainge. But this quote stood out above all others and represents the most important quality this Celtics team prizes.
Asked a rival front office guy how Boston is in this position: "They are a team full of killers. Some are loud like Smart & Morris. Others do it quietly like Horford, Tatum & Brown. And the best, quietest killer of all is on the sidelines because you never see it coming."— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) May 16, 2018