The Boston Celtics have struggled on the glass throughout the 2017 NBA playoffs. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers was no different.
The Cavs had their way with the C’s on the boards, which helped the road team pick up a 117-104 victory Wednesday night at TD Garden.
Cleveland’s interior domination was due in large part to Tristan Thompson. The Cavaliers forward posted 20 points to go along with nine rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end.
Thompson’s success on the boards provided Cleveland with a helping of second-chance opportunities, which contributed to its offensive outburst in Game 1. And while Thompson is a tremendous rebounder, Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue believes the forward brings so much more to the table.
“Tristan was big,” Lue said. “He’s our energy, he’s our motor. Defensively he was great, but the six offensive rebounds he had were huge for us. And then finishing around the basket. His toughness and will are just big for us. His physicality is huge, especially against this team.”
Thompson’s tenacity has been his calling card since his arrival in the NBA. At 6-foot-9, he’s usually smaller than the players he’s going up against in the paint. But what he lacks in size, he makes up for with exceptional effort and positioning.
Celtics guard Avery Bradley understands how Thompson can affect a game and knows Boston must do a much better job of limiting him as the series progresses.
“In the playoffs, you’re supposed to try to take away what guys do,” Bradley said. “That’s what they’re doing to us and that’s what we need to do to him (Thompson). We need to put a body on him and team rebound. We have to do a better job at it.”
Boston did show flashes of the team rebounding Bradley referenced. Rookie Jaylen Brown impressed with nine boards, while Al Horford and Jae Crowder each contributed eight. The Cavaliers are a bigger team than the Celtics, but as seen in Thompson’s case, effort and physicality goes a long way.
If the Celtics can’t remedy their rebounding woes in the coming games, the series won’t go on for very long. The C’s can ill afford to allow second-chance opportunities, especially against an offensive juggernaut like the Cavs.
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