CLEVELAND – When it comes to scouting the Cleveland Cavaliers, you can’t help but lock in on LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
They’re all really, really good players.
But too much consumption with their play makes one susceptible to the role players around them having an impact on games.
And as much as Kyrie Irving was praised for his 30-point performance in Cleveland’s 113-100 Game 1 win, or the props given to Kevin Love for his 19-point, 12-rebound double-double, two role players – Tristan Thompson and James Jones – came up huge for the Cavs in their victory.
Despite the Cavs’ bench ranking among the NBA’s worst when it comes to scoring, this group has found ways all season to complement the play of the team’s starters.
“They’ve got good depth, a good group of basketball players,” said Boston head coach Brad Stevens. “Secondly, everyone is better when they’re playing with those guys.”
In Sunday’s Game 1 win, Cleveland’s Kevin Love struggled in the first half with his shot and to a lesser degree, on the boards.
But Thompson came to the rescue, scoring nine points and grabbing five rebounds in the first half.
“My role doesn’t change, whether it’s the playoffs or the regular season,” said Thompson who had 12 points and six rebounds in Game 1. “Come off the bench, bring that energy, bring that spark. The same thing for all our guys who come off the bench.”
And although Thompson is just 24 years old, he understands that doing the dirty work around the rim is the role he must play and play it well for Cleveland to continue on its winning ways.
“It’s like a company,” Thompson said. “You got your sanitation workers; you got your janitors, you got your CEOs, you got your secretaries. I don’t mind being the clean-up guy; punch in the clock and do all the little things.”
Boston went on a 14-0 run in the third quarter to come within six points. But the Celtics spurt came to a screeching halt when Jones made a turn-around jumper.
Jones’ basket sparked a 9-0 run by Cleveland to close out the quarter.
From there, the Cavs’ control was no longer an issue.
And before this series is over, Cleveland’s likely to get contributions from others off their bench along with Thompson the resident “janitor.”
“I’ll be a janitor forever. Nothing wrong with that,” said Thompson who finished fifth in the league’s Sixth Man of the Year voting. “Everyone has their place in the factory. I don’t mind doing the little things. If that’s what it takes to win and be great, so be it.”
Celtics guard Avery Bradley was not surprised that others besides Cleveland’s Big Three contributed in Game 1.
“They have good star players,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “But they’re a good team. That’s why they’re number two in the East.”