CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers have gotten plenty of production from “The Big Three” of small forward LeBron James, point guard Kyrie Irving and power forward Kevin Love in the first two games of the 2017 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.
But finding others to step up and assist in the scoring, rebounding and playmaking departments has, thus far, been a futile search for the reigning NBA Champion Cavaliers, and nowhere has that lack of production been more evident than with center Tristan Thompson who is averaging half as many points and rebounds as he did over the first three rounds of the postseason.
“They’re doing a good job sending two, three guys to box me out,” Thompson said of his struggles on the glass.
“They’re doing that and it’s opening up Kev [Love] for the offensive rebound, so if Kev is getting the offensive rebound instead of me, it’s still a win for us. I just have to keep battling down there and keep playing hard.”
After averaging 8.6 points and 9.0 rebounds over the first three rounds of the playoffs, including sweeps of the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors, as well as a five-game series against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, Thompson went scoreless in Game 1 against the Warriors and scored eight in Game 2, but was on the floor for only 21 minutes in the 132-113 loss at Golden State.
“They're doing a good job of trying to keep him off the glass, and at times, we're down and they are playing well defensively, so we decide to go smaller and kind of open the floor up and space the floor, which was good for us for about three quarters or two quarters and a half,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.
“(It’s) nothing Tristan's done. It's just basically just trying to get more scoring on the floor, more shooting, because they try to load up and help so much.”
For the second straight year, the Cavaliers will return to Quicken Loans Arena in an 0-2 hole against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
The Cavaliers fell into the 0-2 deficit with Sunday’s Game 2 loss, which was played in front of a capacity crowd of 19,596 raucous fans at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, Sunday night.
And in order for them to make a similar comeback after overcoming deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 against the Warriors last year, the Cavaliers will need production from Thompson, starting with Game 3 at The Q Wednesday night.
“They’ve been out there talking a lot about trying to keep a body on him, a couple of bodies on him,” James said of Thompson. “He’s a big piece of our success and they know that, so they have neutralized that in the first two games.”