What has been the key to the Celtics 2-0 series advantage?
Cory Prescott: There are a variety of reasons you can point to the Celtics winning the first two games against Cleveland by an average margin of 19 points, including the simple fact that the Celtics have homecourt advantage in this series (they’re 9-0 at the Garden in the playoffs thus far). What has stood out to me the most is Boston’s inclination to include LeBron James in a lot of actions on one end of the court, and a willingness to let the Celtics – particularly Marcus Morris – handle James without a double team. Although James is still superhuman, he’s in year No. 15 and doesn’t have the same type of stamina that he once possessed.
Nick Cherico: Jaylen Brown has been the key to the Celtics success all postseason. The energy that he brings night in and night out is infectious, and it’s been rubbing off on his teammates. It’s truly been a pleasure to watch him grow alongside Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier this year.
Devon Clements: Defense, shot making, and defense. We all know LeBron is going to get his on offense, but it’s about the shot making of guys like Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, etc. that impacts games for Cleveland. If you limit the secondary scorers of the Cavaliers you will come out as a winner, and that is what Boston did in the first two games. Along with that, the Celtics obviously had to make shots along the way to keep themselves in the game like they did in Game 2 when LeBron put up 21 points in the first quarter.
Hunter Perkins: Youth, athleticism, confidence, defense and grit. This team is so much fun to watch on both sides of the ball. Jaylen Brown is a star, and Jayson Tatum is a “rising superstar.” Both of those guys want the ball in their hands at the most important times of the game. Marcus Smart has been so key. His loose ball and deflection ability is straight up elite. These guys simply want it more.
What adjustments, if any, should the Celtics make for Game 3?
Prescott: The Celtics allowed the Cavs to waltz their way to 55 points during the first half of Game 2, yet a large concern remains with keeping Tristan Thompson off the offensive glass. For whatever reason, the Celtics have never been able to box out Thompson. Baynes is the most likely solution for that problem, however the Aron Baynes and Al Horford combo has been a negative in the playoffs. To his credit (and one of the many things that he does well) Brad Stevens stayed small with Marcus Morris when Ty Lue elected to start Thompson. It didn’t hurt the Celtics in Boston; in Cleveland it could be a different story.
Cherico: I don’t think the Celtics need to make any adjustments. Why rock the boat? What they’ve been doing so far has clearly worked up to this point, so I see no need for them to change anything. Brad Stevens has done an incredible job game-planning and making in-game adjustments during this series.
Clements: The only time the Celtics will need to make adjustments in Game 3 is if Ty Lue switches up his lineups. If not, don’t change a thing.
Perkins: Play like you’re at home. Turn the boos into silence. Nothing is better for the away team than a silent home crowd. They need to attack early and play smart. Fast starts will be crucial if they want to steal a game on the road. Cleveland is gonna be ready to attack and the Celtics will need be better. It won’t be easy, but I like the chances. Look for another quick start for Jaylen.
Are there any lineup combinations the Cavaliers can try and unearth for Game 3?
Prescott: Start Kyle Korver over the useless J.R. Smith and give Korver well more than the paltry 21 minutes he played in Game 2 (the Cavs should play him nearly the entire game). The Cavs should also think about dusting off Cedi Osman, who has enough of a weird game to maybe make things interesting, in addition to Larry Nance, an athletic big who theoretically should be able to make an impact. It speaks to Cleveland GM Koby Altman and his failure to assemble a roster of playoff-ready players that the majority of Cavs players are playing well below their worth. (Lue could also tell Kendrick Perkins to suit up and Goon The Game Up).
Cherico: The Cavs don’t have enough depth on this team to unearth, so I’m going to say no. I think they’ve thrown everything they have at the Celtics up to this point. LeBron is going to continue to dominate, but outside of him, there’s not a whole lot they can do that will throw the Celtics off guard.
Clements: I think they should put Jordan Clarkson in the starting lineup and give him the green light to shoot. He has the ability to be a strong scorer, but his lack of confidence has prevented that from happening as of late. It’s a bit drastic seeing that he didn’t play a single minute in Game 2, but what’s the worst that can happen, they lose again?
Perkins: Hill, JR, LeBron, Nance and Love. Larry Nance deserves a shot at helping this team win. He is extremely athletic which can pose matchup problems for the Celtics. He is a decent pick-and-roll big who offers more offensive game than Tristan Thompson. At this point, anything is worth a try for the Cavs.
ESPN stat on how #Celtics guarded LeBron James.
– 9 Celtics guarded him
– Did not allow him to score in transition (0 FG attempts)
– Contested 28 of 29 shots
– Avg shot distance 15.9 feet
– Zero assist opportunities on 9 drives
He still went for 42.
Cavs still lost
— Celtics on CLNS (@CelticsCLNS) May 16, 2018
Predictions for Game 3 and the rest of the series?
Prescott: The Celtics’ struggles on the road this postseason are real: a 1-4 record and an offensive rating that would put them last among playoff teams. Yet, this feels different. The Sixers very well could have been the next best team in the Eastern Conference – far better than what this Cavs team can put out on the floor. In addition to possessing the clear coaching advantage the Celtics have the more talented and hungrier team. If LeBron and the Cavs find themselves with the game slipping away, we’ve seen LeBron pack it in before. The Celtics will win out in this series.
Cherico: The Cavs looked completely deflated after losing game two. I think their home crowd is going to spark some energy back into them, but it isn’t going to be enough to win tonight’s game. The Celtics are just playing on a higher level right now. I have the Celtics taking a 3-0 series lead tonight and taking this series in five games back in Boston.
Clements: I strongly believe that the Cavaliers will win Game 3 since it will be in Cleveland. Celtics have been subpar when they aren’t playing in Boston, and I have a gut feeling that the refs will want to extend the series as well. With that being said, Celtics win Game 4, and then go home and win Game 5 to not only upset the Cavaliers but also the NBA in their attempt to keep LeBron alive in the postseason.
Perkins: Tonight will be a close one. If the Celtics can hit at least 35% of their threes, I think they steal this game. They know they can withstand a LeBron haymaker, but they need to hit shots. I’m going with the Celtics, 112-109. Trust the Progress.