CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers have plenty of capable scorers in both of their lineups, but as has been the case throughout the regular season, they have utilized their defense to push the pace on the offensive end of the floor.
And that commitment to success led to a dominating performance in their 117-104 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden in Boston Wednesday night.
“I think we just got multiple stops,” center Tristan Thompson said. “With our team, if we can get stops, we’re very good in the open court. We’ve got a guy that can make plays, and you saw LeBron in the early seconds of the shot clock attacking their guards and forcing their bigs to foul.”
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 crashing the boards, 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.
“I’m just doing my job, but also, like I said, with LeBron attacking the rim and Kyrie, K-Love in the post, it forces the others guys on the court to come over and help,” Thompson said.
“For me, it’s kind of getting open air whether it’s to get an offensive rebound or a quick finish around the rim. They’ve got to kind of pick and choose. You don’t want to leave your guy on an island against LeBron or Kyrie, so if they come help over, I’ve got to be ready to clean up the glass.”
Like Love, Thompson tallied a new single-game playoff high with 20 points. Thompson went seven for seven from the field and six of 10 at the free-throw line in 34 minutes of action. Thompson pulled down nine rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end of the floor.
Additionally, Thompson handed out four assists and stole two passes.
“All season, our coaching staff and our development staff have done a good job with all of our bigs in terms of the short roll, making plays,” Thompson said. “If they’re going to stay on shooters, we’ve got to be a playmaker, and we’ve also got to look at the rim looking to score. If they all stay home, it leaves the lane wide open and you have to finish.”
Despite a 10-day layoff since closing out the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, James, Love and Thompson combined to score 90 points, pull down 30 rebounds and steal five passes in the lopsided victory.
“Tristan was big,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “He's our energy. He's our motor. Defensively, he was great, but all the offensive rebounds, he had six offensive rebounds, were huge for us. And then, finishing around the basket, his toughness and his will are just big for us. I think his physicality is huge for us, especially against this team.”
Small forward LeBron James added, “Double-T is one of the best rebounders in our game, especially offensively, so to be able to have him out there, and we get extra possessions and kicking out for threes is definitely demoralizing for a ball club.”
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