CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers cruised to a 117-104 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday night, but for as much success as they had in the opening game of the best-of-seven series, the players are expecting a strong showing from the home team tonight.
In fact, the Cavaliers are expecting a must-win mentality from the Celtics as to avoid going into an 0-2 hole after starting the series on their home floor at TD Garden in Boston.
“I expect that they'll be desperate,” center Tristan Thompson said. “I expect Isaiah to come out the first five minutes and get himself going. I think as a team, we understand that, and we'll get prepared for them to go small, with a small lineup, or play more with Olynyk and Horford.
“I think every game in the playoffs is a must-win, but definitely, it's a must-win for both teams, for us and them, so it's whatever team comes out ready and brings it is going to get the ballgame.”
Defensively, the Cavaliers limited the Celtics to a 16-for-45 showing in the first half, and they used that slow start from Boston to build a 61-39 lead heading into halftime.
With 29 misses from Boston, the Cavaliers had to hit the glass, and with power forward Kevin Love, small forward LeBron James and Thompson on the case, the team held a 28-14 advantage in rebounds after the first half.
The Cavaliers finished the game with a 44-40 edge in rebounds.
“You’ve got to talk,” James said. “It's a beautiful thing when you're communicating and everyone knows where they're supposed to be defensively, because when you get stops, then you can have fun. You can go out and run around and throw the ball and shoot threes and things of that nature, so defense is always key.”
As the Cavaliers go in search of a two-game lead over the Celtics, they know there are some things to clean up on the defensive end of the floor, especially coming out of halftime, where they struggled in Game 1.
“Third quarter could be better,” Thompson said. “I think they outscored us, 36-31, in the third quarter. That's too much. Our goal is for a team to score 24 or less every quarter, so we've got to be better in the third quarter. I think it starts with us as the starters. We've got to come out ready to play, and we've got to start getting stops. Once we do that, we get on a run.”
Additionally, the Cavaliers know that they have to start strong and take away the advantage Celtics fans give their team if they hope to return to Cleveland for Game 3 at Quicken Loans Arena Sunday with a 2-0 lead in the series.
“Their crowd is really behind them, and they feed off their crowd, so we know it's going to be the same thing,” Thompson said. “(Game 2) is going to be very important because they're going to try to set the tone early. Their stars are going to have to be very aggressive, and we're going to have to withstand their runs.”