The Boston Celtics walked all over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday — especially inside.
The Celtics had 60 points in the paint, and went 22-of-30 at the rim, in their 108-83 blowout in the opening game of the series. Center Al Horford dropped 20 points in the win, starting a perfect 7-of-7 from the field, and finished with six assists, four rebounds and two blocks. Simply put, Cleveland couldn’t stop him down low.
In order to slow Horford, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is contemplating starting Tristan Thompson for Game 2 on Tuesday night.
“Looking at the statistics, over the last three years with at least 30 possessions [defending Horford], all of the guys that have guarded Al Horford, Tristan is No. 1 in the league defending Al Horford,” Lue told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “So that’s a good thing, you know?”
Per the ESPN report, Lue thought about putting Thompson in at center to start Game 1, however he decided to stick to the lineup that led them to an easy 4-0 sweep of the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“We weighed it before the series started, but we’d won seven out of eight and we weren’t going to adjust until someone beat us and we didn’t play well with that lineup that got us to this point,” Lue told McMenamin.
Thompson finished with eight points and 11 rebounds on Sunday, playing 20 minutes. He has averaged 5.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game this season with the Cavaliers — his seventh in the league. He has started just 22 times this year.
And while Horford — who has been a dominant force in the league for 11 seasons — is a daunting task to defend, Thompson said he’s up for the challenge.
“Horford’s a very good player; he’s an All-Star,” Thompson told McMenamin. “If you can’t get up to play All-Star bigs, then I have nothing to tell you. Whenever you go against him, we’ve had a history, especially in Atlanta with him and [Paul] Millsap, with Chicago Joakim [Noah] and Pau [Gasol], those are All-Star bigs that are very good players and for me a guy that wants to keep getting better and keep proving myself, you get up for those games.”
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