INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 107-94 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night, Cavs center Tristan Thompson did not mince words when it came to his team’s defensive performance.
“I think defensively, we were just horrible,” Thompson said. “We were terrible defensively, (expletive) defensively.”
Two days later and two days ahead of Cleveland’s Game 3 matchup against the Celtics — who now lay claim to a 2-0 series lead — Thompson was noticeably calmer.
His assessment of the Cavs’ defense, however, had hardly varied, particularly when it came to Cleveland’s communication against Boston thus far.
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“We all have strengths and weaknesses. Some guys aren’t huge communicators, but at the end of the day, it’s the playoffs. It’s for all the marbles. We’re down 0-2,” the seventh-year center said. “If you don’t like to talk, you’re going to talk now. And if you don’t want to talk, you’re going to sit your a– on the bench.”
Despite being undermanned and inexperienced, the Celtics have thus far had no issue getting — and converting — open looks against the Cavs. In its first two games against Boston, Cleveland has allowed 116.5 points per 100 possessions, which is six points more than it surrendered in its four-game sweep of the Toronto Raptors and seven points more than its regular season defensive rating, which ranked second-to-last in the league.
The need for improved communication was a common theme for the Cavs at Thursday’s practice, which also included a film session with head coach Tyronn Lue. In addition to talking more, Lue pointed to the need for his team to improve its physicality, as did shooting guard J.R. Smith, who gave an interesting answer when asked if that was more of a matter of mindset or inherent nature.
“I would say a little bit of both,” said Smith. “Fortunately for me, I don’t have that problem.”
Whether or not the Cavs possess enough of that physicality to survive against the Celtics will be determined in the coming week. But according to Thompson, none of it will matter if the team doesn’t talk more.
“That’s what it is, point blank, simple,” Thompson said. “If we’re not communicating, all five of us, we’ve got no chance.”
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