Boston Celtics Keys to Game 2


Those who watched Game One on Sunday afternoon got to experience exactly what makes the Cleveland Cavaliers the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. Major contributions from LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love accounted for 69 of the teams 113 points, and had moments of individual brilliance from start to finish.

Now, with the formula in place and executed quite well, the Cavaliers still found themselves trailing after the first quarter and in a tight game up until the half. If the Boston Celtics are to take any positives away from their game one loss, they can find a few bright spots from the opening stages. Then, they can see where those pieces fell apart in the following 10-20 minutes of game play, and finally figure out how to steal game two by fixing those issues.

This is the glory of the NBA postseason, where teams are very seldom going to stick with one strategy for the length of the series. That is why adjustments, coaching, and attention to detail reign supreme in a best of 7 series. That is the good news for Boston.

Game Two is going to look a lot different from Sunday afternoon, and the Boston Celtics will be making various tweaks to their game in order to potentially steal a game on the road and head back to Boston even at one game each. Here are the major areas the Celtics could make alterations, and things you should keep an eye on Tuesday night.

More from Celtics News


This point is first for a reason, and most important. The Cavaliers were +8 on the offensive glass and +12 on total rebounds for the game. That stays how it is, a sweep is not only likely, but almost a guarantee. A team like Cleveland can not be given multiple second chances, and in game one they turned those chances into 18 second chance points.

This comes as a result of Brad Stevens throwing out multiple “small-ball” lineups, allowing the Cleveland bigs to dominate throughout. Kevin Love finished the game with 12 rebounds, and Tristan Thompson honestly looked like the best big on the floor for much of the game.

Thompson was able to dominate the boards as a result of being matched up consistently with players who are not even remotely up to par with him in regards to size and athleticism on the glass. One of the most important factors in this series will be finding a way to neutralize the obvious advantage Cleveland has inside.

On Ball Defending

This task is so much easier said than done. The Celtics need to find a way to eliminate one of the two perimeter threats the Cavaliers possess. Kyrie Irving going off for thirty crucial points was the catalyst for the entire offense. Lebron James penetrating into the heart of the defense and kicking it out was how players like James Jones (8 points) and JR Smith (9 points) got going.

Apr 19, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and guard Kyrie Irving (2) walk to the bench in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics in game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics should stop showing Irving so much of Evan Turner and move instead towards a Marcus Smart heavy game two. Even players like Avery Bradley, who began his NBA career as a defensive perimeter defender, should take his turn on Kyrie.

On the flip side, defending Lebron James is relatively easy if you have Kawhi Leonard on your team. Seeing as though the only Celtics player with cornrows is nobody it looks like we will have to use a heavy mix of Jae Crowder and Brandon Bass. Both players held Lebron in game one, but that will be no simple task moving forward.

The Cavaliers offense revolves around spacing and star players getting right into the teeth of the defense and either finishing or kicking out to great shooters. If the Celtics toughen up on the ball and don’t let the Cleveland players get to where they want on the floor, you can hope to slow down this Cavaliers team just enough to keep it close. No one is ever going to truly “shut down” this group, but you can hope to minimize the damage inflicted.

No more Evan Turner Point Forward Play

This season proved that Evan Turner as a point forward can be a useful and occasional primary scoring option against a lot of teams.

Those teams don’t have Lebron James.

When Turner and James are on the floor, more specifically when James is checking Turner, the system just is not working. The Celtics are obviously a team who runs through Isaiah Thomas when he is on the floor but they need a better secondary option if he is not.

Apr 19, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives to the basket against Boston Celtics guard Evan Turner (11) in the second quarter in game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

One potential option the Celtics showed throughout the season is their motion offense which really does not involve a primary ball handler. Sure Turner can get it started from the point spot, but the ball changes hands multiple times and creates a good look off the bounce for one of Boston’s bigs to go against much less athletic players like Mozgov. This isn’t necessarily a sustainable offense for 48 minutes, but rather a new look to show Cleveland while Thomas is on the bench.

Avery Bradley needs to step up

This season Bradley averaged close to 14 points per game and was a huge issue for opposing defenses to play against. His ability to catch and shoot, coupled with his perpetual motion off the ball led to easy Celtics baskets for both him and screeners involved in his sets.

If the Celtics hope to keep pace with the Cavaliers offense (no small task) it will have to consist of a heavy dose of Avery Bradley. I do believe he has one or two big games in this series, but they must start in game two if the Celtics are to have any hope of returning to Cleveland for a game 5.

Overall, if Boston is to see this series evened up heading home to Boston, they need to make some adjustments on both ends of the floor. This is where coaching in the postseason becomes so important. I believe that Brad Stevens is intelligent enough to figure out just how to put this young Boston team in the best position to steal game two, and I am looking forward to seeing the tweaks he makes to his lineups.

Apr 15, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens calls a play in the second quarter during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

If the Celtics are able to somehow nab game two, and bring the series home even at one game apiece, we could see things start to get very interesting. Cleveland has not been postseason tested, as many of the core players are in their first postseason series.

That is a big “if”, but with some minor adjustments the Celtics can rally back in game two. Then, it will be all in the hands of the Boston Garden faithful to tip this series on its head.

Game Two is the biggest game of the Celtics season, and the biggest in the NBA careers of most of their players. Let’s see how they respond.

More from Hardwood Houdini