CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers may be idle since sweeping their way past the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but they are playing close attention to the Boston Celtics-Washington Wizards series.
While the Cavaliers have organized watch parties among the players, coaches and basketball operations staff to enjoy the camaraderie of the postseason, center Tristan Thompson is doing what he can to pick up tendencies on future opponents.
“Everyone on the team watches the games,” Thompson said. “We’re just trying to get a feel for what the teams are doing, see which guys are hot and how teams are playing just to prepare for whoever we may play.
“It’s a good series. I’m enjoying watching it. It’s good basketball. They’re getting after it. It’s a boxing match. They’re both going to blows and taking hits, so (it's) going to be a really good game, but we’re going to be watching, very closely.”
Good basketball is something the Cavaliers have put on display over the last three weeks.
Throughout the first two rounds of the playoffs, including four-game sweeps of the Raptors and Indiana Pacers, the Cavaliers ramped up their defensive efficiency as compared to their struggles of the last six weeks of the regular season.
Thompson credits that change in defensive results to assistant coach Mike Longabardi, nicknamed Coach Longo by the players.
“We knew all of the Raptors’ plays,” Thompson said. “We knew all of Indiana’s plays, and I think that helps us a lot. Guys did their homework at home, watching their iPads, watching their matchups to really take that job personally and know that, ‘Hey, I’m going to guard my guy one-on-one, and if he does beat me, I know that my help will play on a string.’
“During the regular season, it might be a little bit tough because you might have a day, or if it’s a back-to-back, 12 hours to prepare for a team. It’s totally different in the playoffs. You get more time to prep and be prepared for your opponent.”
Thompson has put that time to good use.
Known for his unrelenting pursuit of the basketball, particularly on the offensive end of the floor, Thompson has averaged 10.6 rebounds per game over the first two rounds of the playoffs.
And Thompson feels that kind of effort is what makes the difference between winning and losing in the playoffs, which will resume for the Cavaliers either Monday, May 15 or Wednesday, May 17.
“The 50-50 balls, the little plays end up costing teams games or change the whole outcome of games, so that’s what I look at,” Thompsons said. “Especially with me personally, it’s the little things.
“That’s something I bring to the table in terms of doing things that might not show up in the box score, diving for a loose ball or switching out on a guard and getting that big stop, keep cutting someone’s water off if they’ve made a couple shots. If you watch these games, it’s the small, little possessions that change the outcomes of games.”
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