Last Updated: 2017-05-19
The Boston Celtics enter Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals with the season on the line. After losing Game 1 by 13 points, the Celtics blew their chance of sustaining any real momentum in the playoffs. Now, the Celtics need this win to ensure another home game in the 2017 NBA Playoffs. Otherwise, the Boston faithful may have to wait until next season to reach the NBA Finals.
Still, it’s not wise to count out the Celtics just yet. Remember, they started out the playoffs with a pair of home losses. As soon as their season seemed destined for playoff failure, the Celtics bounced back with two straight road wins. Eventually, the Celtics won six straight games before their back and forth affair with the Washington Wizards. We should also note that the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t the Chicago Bulls. Furthermore, the Celtics shouldn’t count on another series-ending injury in the conference finals.
Even with all of the doom and gloom, one solid 48 minutes of game action can alter the series quickly. First of all, the Cavaliers haven’t even been cut yet. They enter Game 2 with a (9-0) record in the playoffs. In all, the Cavaliers have won 12 straight postseason games dating back to last season. Will the Celtics be able to draw even on Friday night.
If yes, Isaiah Thomas is going to have to play one of those historic games. During the Game 2 win over the Wizards, Thomas scored 53 points. He shot a playoff high 18-of-33 in the overtime win. However, Thomas has not been the same in the last six playoff games. He is averaging 6.5 baskets per game on 16.5 field goal attempts. That equates to 39.4 percent from the field. Thomas is still averaging 20.5 points during that span, however, Thomas is recording 7.8 assists per game in the last six contests. He dished out 5.9 assists per game in the first eight playoff games.
Clearly, opponents are playing Thomas in a different fashion. That’s why he has to find other ways to score. By score, we mean help the Celtics earn easy buckets. The Celtics need to limit pick n’ roll situations and let Thomas go early in the shot clock. Here’s why.
The Cavaliers’ are giving up 46 percent shooting in the playoffs. At times, the defense has been good, but opponents can score against them. More importantly, the Cavaliers will relinquish open shots on a regular basis. The only drawback for the Celtics is when length gets on Thomas. Therefore, the quicker he makes an offensive decision, the harder it will be for the Cavaliers to dial in defensively. Furthermore, shot making will slow the Cavaliers’ offense.
The Celtics also must refrain from switching bigs onto perimeter players. Repeatedly, LeBron James had a cakewalk to the paint against front court players. Therefore, the Celtics should fight through the ball screens on most occasions. During Game 1, they just switched roles, leaving defenders on an island. Don’t be surprised to see the Celtics trap a few pick n’ roll sets as well.
The Celtics also need to keep Tristan Thompson off the offensive glass. Thompson secured six offensive rebounds in Game 1. His tenacity decimated any momentum the Celtics wanted to gain in the first quarter. Overall, the Cavaliers tallied 12 offensive rebounds.
Thanks to the drives and offensive rebounding, the Celtics gave up 35 free throw attempts in Game 1. Once they limit those points, the Celtics have a chance to compete and win. They lost the battle at the foul line by 18 points.
With these minor adjustments in mind, the Celtics can capture Game 2 and make it a series. Otherwise, the Cavaliers are looking at their third straight sweep of the playoffs.
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