Cleveland Is Running Out of Answers Against Boston
Tristan Thompson and Marcus Morris. Photo credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
- Cleveland played well in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but still lost by 13.
- There are a few areas where the Cavs can improve: JR Smith’s shooting and turnovers, to name a couple.
- Ultimately, though, this Celtics team may still be too good — and there could be room for bettors to capitalize on the fact that the market continues to undervalue Boston. .
In Game 2, LeBron James had 42 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists on 52.4% usage (per Cleaning the Glass). He nailed his 3-pointers, going 5-of-11, and finished with a stupid-high 70.6% assist rate. The Cavaliers lost the game.
That’s … not a good sign for the rest of the series. So what can the Cavs do to turn this thing around? Well, as always, shooting is important, and JR Smith going 0-for-7 in 27 minutes in Game 2 certainly won’t help. But the Cavs aren’t even really due for shooting regression after that one: In Game 1, they were quite unlucky on “open” 3-pointers — NBA Stats classifies those as having a defender 4-6 feet away — but that wasn’t the case in Game 2. Cleveland hit 40.0% of its open 3-pointers and 42.9% of its “wide-open” 3-pointers — those with a defender six-plus feet away. The Cavs hit their open shots. And they still lost.
The low-hanging fruit is to limit the turnovers, and LeBron, who is one of the lowest turnover guys for his role ever, is unlikely to throw it away six times again. Overall, the Cavs turned it over 15 times compared to Boston’s six, and things could’ve been worse for Cleveland: Boston had just five points off those turnovers and 12 total fast-break points.
But this gets to a larger point: The Cavs can’t beat this Boston team with their “B” game and certainly not with their “C” game. And maybe not even with their “A” game. Boston might just be the better team in the series, and the Celtics certainly execute like it: Boston scored 105.0 points per 100 possessions in the half court versus 92.6 for the Cavs. LeBron and the Cavs will come out aggressively, and they’re always capable of putting up a 3-point barrage, but this Celtics team is probably still being undervalued by the public. It’s hard to not take the 6.5 points here.