NBA Playoffs 2018: Eastern Conference Finals - Cleveland Cavaliers vs Boston Celtics - Game 2 Match Preview
Game 1 review
The Boston Celtics systematically dismantled the Cleveland Cavaliers piece by piece in Game 1 of the Conference Finals series. It was a collective effort made by the Cs which paid dividends against Tyronn Lue's side which never got any kind of offensive rhythm going.
As has been the case for most of the playoffs, the Celtics relied on multiple players in a variety of situations to put up their points on the board.
Jaylen Brown led all scorers with 23 points, shooting 9-of-16 from the field and an elite 3-of-5 from downtown. Brown also put the work in on the defensive end, conjuring up a sequence in which he blocked Kevin Love at his own end before knocking down the baseline jumper from 20 feet out.
Marcus Morris, tasked with being LeBron James' primary defender on the night, held The King to 5 points on 2-of-6 shooting through the 24 possessions that he guarded him. On the other end, he was lighting up the scoreboard with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting, especially with a fantastic 3-of-4 shooting from downtown.
Al Horford, the Celtics' tactical lynchpin and the locker room veteran leader, earned the second playoff victory of his career over LeBron by stuffing the stat sheet with 20 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Love top-scored for the Cavaliers with 17 points. He also grabbed 8 boards and dished out 3 dimes. LeBron had a subpar game, tallying only 15 points, although he also had 9 assists and 7 rebounds.
Three keys to the game
LeBron James' bounce-back game - The King will be smarting from the discouraging showing he put up in Game 1. One can expect something similar to the 16-point outburst he had in Game 2 of the first round series against the Indiana Pacers, which he finished with 46 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists.
Celtics' defensive gameplan - The Celtics treated LeBron James with deference, clogging up the paint and plugging up all the driving lanes he tried to find off the bounce. James had to revert on jump shots for much of the game, barring a couple of layups he completed primarily via cuts to the basket.
They also sent help defense aggressively on his side to stop him from stacking up the dimes - James only had 2 assists in the second half. They have to keep up the same intensity and stick to the same gameplan, as it has helped to limit Ben Simmons' offense in the second round, as well as against LeBron when executed by the Spurs in the 2007 NBA Finals.
The Jays - Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have a combined experience of less than 50 playoff games between them, but seeing them out on court makes it hard to buy into that notion. The no. 3 picks from the 2016 and 2017 NBA drafts have excelled in the playoffs this year, and they are vastly superior to JR Smith and Kyle Korver, who they are matching up with.
They combine to score over 35 points per game together, and they are the Celtics' most polished offensive weapons in addition to being effective defenders on the other end.
Matchup to watch
Al Horford vs Kevin Love - The two All-Stars who populate their respective frontcourts are the tactical lynchpins for their teams.
Kevin Love has the ability to do much better than his 17 point, 8 rebound showing in Game 1, as he demonstrated in the last 3 games of the Semifinals against the Raptors. His ability to stretch the floor alongside LeBron James will be key to giving The King the space to operate inside the paint area.
On the other hand, Al Horford is as versatile a basketball player as they come. He has no weakness on either end of the floor, and his defense was the primary reason why Love shot a subpar 5-of-14 from the field in Game 1. If he keeps up his two-way punch, the Celtics would be well on their way to gaining a 2-0 series lead and putting the pressure on the Cavs.
Cavaliers' probable starters
PG - George Hill
SG - JR Smith
SF - Kyle Korver
PF - LeBron James
C - Kevin Love
Celtics' probable starters
PG - Terry Rozier
SG - Jaylen Brown
SF - Jayson Tatum
PF - Marcus Morris
C - Al Horford
Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics, TD Garden
Date and time: ET - 15 May 2018 at 8:30 PM; IST - 16 May 2018 at 6:00 AM