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18 May 2018, 03:22 | Sandy Nunez
Terry Rozier: Boston Celtics can get 'a lot better' defensively, according to Brad Stevens
The Cavaliers' defense broke consistently due to their inability contain players along the perimeter or interior. He was inconsistent, and could not bring the scoring boost they needed. The difference between the Celtics and the two other teams the Cavaliers have played against in these playoffs is their roster is littered with players who have the size to defend James, starting with Morris and extending to Semi Ojeleye, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.
For the first two rounds, he might have been the most disappointing player on the team. "Avery Bradley was an incredible on-ball defender, but he was only 6'3", and that complicated his value in a switching defense.
Ask anyone about LeBron James' historic greatness and they'll tell you pretty much the same thing. And they all got exposed against the Cavs. They need all their top scorers to be producing, to keep as much pressure on James to do more than is physically possible. Al Horford just spent the second round alternating between guarding Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Aron Baynes can hold his own on the perimeter and bang with any big man in the league. Some math wizards would say that gives him better than a 50/50 chance of knotting the series at one apiece on Tuesday. But if Marcus Morris & Co. can continue to make LeBron work for all of those drives, force him into a handful of bad jumpers, and make him rely on his teammates, they should head to Cleveland with a 2-0 series lead.
It certainly helps that every Boston team under Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge has been both impeccably disciplined and chippy as hell.
Having lost the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals to the Cavaliers, Boston are looking for revenge but they had been written off even before the playoffs began with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward out. No mismatch to hunt. And LeBron was slowed down by Morris, but he was also pickpocketed by Smart, while his post-ups were consistently complicated by weakside help from Brown, Horford, and Tatum. "It looked exhausting. Every timeCleveland had a mismatch, there was a 6'8" Celtics wing sliding in from the weakside to erase the advantage.
"We were great", Horford said after the Celtics shot 51.2 per cent from the floor and went 11-for-30 from three. "We have another opportunity to be better as a ball club coming in Tuesday night, and we'll see what happens". As of Monday, though, it was a "pick 'em" for Game 2.
It's LeBron James, so, again, he's probably not lying.
So yeah, Sunday's Game 1 win in Boston over the Cavs was a deep breath of fresh air. Love was able to early in the first quarter of Game 1 when the Celtics switched Morris onto him, but he was less of a factor as the game progressed. But it's also important to appreciate exactly what's happening here. Brad Stevens didn't and Morris picked up just one more foul the rest of the way. On a structural level, this roster has been built to harass stars like LeBron James. He was disappointing in the earlier rounds because they lost his offense, but the Celtics can not be sacrificing that while trying to account for James.
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