The Cleveland Cavaliers were mostly lifeless in their Game 1 blowout loss to the Boston Celtics. They struggled on both ends of the floor and for the first time in the last four years, were demolished by Al Horford in a playoff game. But the team appears to be going back to their Horford stopper in Game 2.
Tyronn Lue has not confirmed that Tristan Thompson will get the Game 2 start, but he did make it clear that they are aware of how well he has done in the past:
Tyronn Lue all but revealed that the Cavs will start Tristan Thompson in Game 2. He says they are “weighing it” but also cited advanced analytics that show just how well Thompson has guarded Al Horford over the years.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) May 14, 2018
When Horford played without Thompson on the floor, the Celtics had a 111.9 ORTG and he had 20 points, four rebounds and three assists. In the minutes Horford and Thompson shared, the Celtics had a 88.9 ORTG.
In addition to that, Horford was far more passive when guarded by Thompson. He did not attempt a shot in the nearly nine minutes they shared the floor and he failed to come up with a single point or rebound.
Injuries have taken the ability to switch onto guards away from Thompson, but he still has the speed and length to guard Horford on all three levels— something nobody else on the Cavs can do consistently.
Assuming the Cavs do go with Thompson, Brad Stevens will likely counter with starting Aron Baynes. While Baynes may help limit the rebounding of Thompson, he won’t impact Thompson’s ability to defend Al Horford.
Baynes also forces Boston to play slower than they’d like and defend LeBron James with either Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum. As good as they’ve been, that’s still a tough ask for two young players.
Many of the issues in Game 1 against Boston mirrored the issues the Cavs had against the Indiana Pacers. Starting Thompson in Game 7 helped mitigate that, and it’s worth a shot in this series. The Celtics landed the first punch, now it’s on the Cavs to come up with an effective counter.