CLEVELAND -- When it comes to playoff basketball, the pathway to success for most teams includes maximizing mismatches.
Cleveland has locked in on trying to get players matched up against Boston's Terry Rozier and have shown no signs of going away from it anytime soon.
The Cavaliers’ ability to get Rozier paired up with bigger, stronger, taller players often, was a major factor in them winning both games at home with the last being a 111-102 Game 4 win on Monday to tie the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
LeBron James, who lit up the Celtics for 44 points in Game 4, has made a conscious effort to either get himself or another teammate matched up with Rozier.
“Well, he's going to go after whoever he wants to go after,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “Sometimes you just have to pick your poison.”
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue was somewhat coy when asked about the team’s success in getting Rozier switched out having to guard some of his bigger players.
“We want to have the movement,” Lue said. “We want to try to take advantage of mismatches. Rozier is a tough fighter, tough competitor. But if you try to get switches, I guess he’s the one you want to try to go up with Kevin [Love] and 'Bron [James] because the other four guys are the same size. They’re strong. They’re physical. So the way they play, you’ve got to try and take advantage of the mismatch because they don’t have a lot on the floor at the same time.
Lue added, “We’ve got to just get to it and then we’ve got to make the right plays out of it.”
And for the Celtics, it puts them in a tough dilemma.
They need Rozier on the floor, not only because of his shooting but also his ability to get the ball to his teammates. In Monday’s 111-102 Game 4 loss, Rozier had a double-double of 16 points and 11 assists without a single turnover. But at the same time, Boston has to figure out a way to address the mismatches Cleveland has consistently created with Rozier on the floor.
The initial dilemma for Boston comes in the form of deciding whether to switch on screens, or try to avoid switches which has the potential to leave Cavs shooters open.
“It’s obviously been more effective to switch than not,” Stevens said. “But at times you have to make that up and change that up, just by the numbers. When you go back and re-watch the game, you’re always thinking about how you’re going to adjust to different coverages. It always ends up transition, offensive rebounds and good shots. We’ve got to take care of those areas first. Then the coverages will be mixed up, but ultimately good players make plays.”
And as we’ve seen in Boston’s postseason journey, Rozier has indeed established himself as a good player.
So has James, reminding us all why he’s one of the best to ever play this game.
In preparation for Games 3 and 4 in Cleveland, James clearly recognized Rozier as a potential matchup that both he and the Cavs could exploit to their advantage in this series.
“This league is predicated on trying to find mismatches; that’s every team,” James said. “If you look at the four teams in the postseason now, Houston is trying to find mismatches, Golden State is trying to find mismatches, Boston, and us as well. 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. We’ve been very successful in the last two games with doing that. Boston was very successful the first two games with doing that.”
Rozier is well aware that the Cavs are targeting him for switches on to guarding James who is seven inches and 70-plus points heavier.
When asked about what he’s looking for when he has to guard James, Terry said, “Hope he miss; that’s about it.”
Rozier added, “It’s something . . . you just have to try and keep him in front and hope he misses.”