Cleveland Cavaliers ratchet up defensive pressure on Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas
CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers know very well what Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas can do when he has the ball in his hands, and as the Eastern Conference Finals resume tonight at TD Garden, they are focused on making his life difficult on the offensive end.
In a 117-104 Game 1 win Wednesday, the Cavaliers held Thomas to 17 points on seven-of-19 shooting, including a two-for-seven showing from three-point range.
“Throwing different looks at him,” center Tristan Thompson said. “He’s a very aggressive scorer, and he does a great job when teams are kind of dropping with the pull-up three, so for us, we just want to get a hard show or blitzing him, just forcing him to give the ball up and have other guys make plays. He’s a very dynamic scorer, and we know that in Game 2, he’s going to be very aggressive, so we’ve got to be ready for that.”
During the six-game series with the Chicago Bulls in the first round, Thomas averaged 23 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 1.0 steals while shooting 43 percent from the field and 81.1 percent from the free-throw line. Thomas guided the Celtics to four straight wins after they lost their first two games of the series at home.
Then, against the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Thomas elevated his play on the offensive end of the floor, scoring 27.4 points and handing out 7.1 assists over an average of 36.7 minutes in the seven-game series.
Thomas shot 44.9 percent from the field and raised his three-point efficiency from 20 percent in the first round to 46.3 percent against the Wizards. He averaged better than 3.5 made three-pointers per game against Washington.
In the closeout game against the Wizards, Thomas buried nine shots, including three three-pointers, and eight free throws on the way to a 29-point performance, which he credited to watching film of James against the Celtics in the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
“We didn’t try to rattle him,” point guard Kyrie Irving said. “Isaiah doesn’t get rattled. When we came out, we just had a real high awareness on him, and you have to. He can get it going at any time. He’s put up huge numbers in these playoffs, so for us, we just made a conscious effort on our end to keep all eyes on him at all times, but also, respect the other guys and make the other guys do things they’re uncomfortable doing.”
With Thomas and the Celtics anxious to even the best-of-seven series at 1-1 heading back to Cleveland for Game 3 on Sunday, the Cavaliers are expecting an all-out effort at TD Garden.
“I know I’ll be fighting for my life, so I would expect the same thing from the other team,” Irving said. “We don’t take anything for granted.
“We understand it’s one game, and we’ve got to come out in Game 2 with an even higher expectancy for what they’re going to throw at us. I know Brad’s going to make some adjustments. He’s an incredible coach, so we’ve just got to be prepared for that.”