Give Terry Rozier credit: At least he’s honest.
After the Boston Celtics’ nine-point loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals, facilitated by LeBron James’ 44-point outburst, Rozier was asked what he has to do to better defend the best player on the planet.
“Hope he miss. That’s about it,” Rozier responded, via MassLive.com.
“Big body,” he added. “You’ve just got to keep him in front and hope he miss.”
That may seem like a hopeless answer, but Rozier isn’t wrong. The Cavs employed switches to isolate James on the 6-foot-2 Celtics point guard, and LeBron took him to task. According to NBA.com’s matchup data, James tallied seven points on 3-of-3 shooting during the six possessions Rozier matched up against him.
But those numbers only tell part of the story, as it seemed Rozier had to guard James for a portion of nearly every possession he was on the court. (The above stats only count possessions where Rozier was James’ primary defender.) The Cavs star took full advantage of that size matchup, easily facilitating with a clear view of the floor and getting into the paint at will.
That James-Rozier matchup, of course, was all part of the Cavs’ plan.
“This league is predicated on trying to find mismatches; that’s every team,” James said after Game 4, via NBC Sports Boston. “… It’s not much of a secret. You just try to execute once you get the mismatch or you feel like you have a position where you can be successful offensively.”
The Celtics managed to (somewhat) contain James in Games 1 and 2 with bigger defenders like Marcus Morris. But after Cleveland’s dominating offensive showings in Games 3 and 4, Boston will need to make an adjustment in Game 5 to solve the Rozier conundrum.
Does that adjustment mean fighting through screens and preventing James from isolating on Rozier? Not necessarily, head coach Brad Stevens said Monday night.
“It’s obviously been more effective to switch than not, but at times you have to make that up and change that up, just by the numbers,” Stevens said, via The Athletic. “When you go back and re-watch the game, you’re always thinking about how you’re going to adjust to different coverages. … The coverages will be mixed up, but ultimately good players make plays.”
Stevens and Rozier seem to agree: You can’t stop LeBron James; you can only do your best to contain him. We’ll see how the plan to do that Wednesday night at TD Garden.
Thumbnail photo via Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports Images