George Hill

Blakely: Celtics must address Cavaliers offensive bullying of Terry Rozier

Blakely: Celtics must address Cavaliers offensive bullying of Terry Rozier

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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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Blakely: Change of venue won’t keep LeBron on throne

Blakely: Change of venue won’t keep LeBron on throne

CLEVELAND – You can add me to the list of folks who absolutely hates the King James references when it comes to LeBron.

That said, there’s no way you can look at his body of work and not acknowledge his greatness and, with that, respect that he is truly NBA royalty.

So, the idea of knocking one of the greatest players ever out of the postseason is one that the Celtics are doing more than just pondering…They’re actually doing it.

And the journey to such an unprecedented achievement involves doing some unprecedented things.

We saw LeBron James at his best in Game 2, hammering the Celtics to the tune of 42 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists – the kind of numbers that most nights equate to a Cavs victory.

Not only did Cleveland not win, but the Celtics won going away to post their second double-digit victory of the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Think about it and let this marinate for a second.

LeBron James delivered one of his best statistical playoff performances ever, checked off damn near every box on the LeBron “to-win list” and the result wasn’t just a loss, but a loss by double figures to a team that’s without its top two players.

Conventional wisdom tells us that now that the series shifts to Cleveland, the Cavaliers will be better and they will start playing great defense, which I’m hearing is now called “gooning up the game!”

Cleveland’s backcourt of J.R. Smith and George Hill will emerge and show that they can do more than just step on the floor but actually be semi-productive.

After all, conventional wisdom and history tell us that James & Co. will win Games 3 and 4, right?

When down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference playoffs, James is a perfect 6-0.

The Celtics may not be aware of that particular stat, but they know James, the Cavs and playoff basketball well enough to know that a Game 3 or 4 win on the road won’t be easy.

The home team in this postseason is 49-19, a winning percentage of .721.

Nothing about this series, or this season for that matter, has been easy for the Celtics.

Which is why the raucous Quicken Loans Arena crowd - one of the better ones in the NBA - won’t rattle the Celtics.

They have been through too much, experienced far worse this season than anything the Cavaliers faithful can hurl their way.

Which is why this series is closer to being over than any of us envisioned.

The Cavs are going to play better, just like they played better in Game 2 than they did in Game 1.

Still, the Celtics are on what so many believed was a basketball suicide mission – to get to the NBA Finals – that they would never live long enough in the postseason to ever see come to fruition.

“Maybe next year” was an all-too-common sentiment from their fans, an intelligent bunch that logically reasoned a team void of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward would be hard-pressed to win a series let alone a couple more after that and get to the NBA Finals.

And yet here are the Celtics, making so many of us look like fools because they saw what no one else did – talent, toughness and a never-say-never will to win regardless of the circumstances.

No matter how this season plays out, this team will be remembered as the one that repackaged Celtic Pride in a way no Brad Stevens-coached team has done in the past.

And that pride has a Teflon-toughness about it that has been bent, twisted and contorted time and time again.

But it won’t break.

It can’t break.

And that’s why location, history, healthy players … none of that is going to matter.

This series is about more than having a will to win, but a will to not lose.

These Celtics have proven themselves time and time again that they are in fact that team.

And as much as I hate the King James references, it’s clear that this series is trending towards James being dethroned from atop the Eastern Conference mountain at the hand – make that hands because nothing this Celtics team does is done alone – of a team that will not be forgotten about anytime soon.

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Could Cavaliers trade Isaiah Thomas in deal for DeAndre Jordan or George Hill?

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Could Cavaliers trade Isaiah Thomas in deal for DeAndre Jordan or George Hill?

BOSTON – Considering the expectations for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season and how they’ve fallen well short of meeting them thus far – even with LeBron James having an MVP-worthy season – it’s no surprise that the Cavs are ratcheting up their pursuit of potential trade targets to better position themselves for a postseason run that would include knocking off upper-tier teams in the East which includes the Boston Celtics. 

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Marc Stein of the New York Times reports that the Cavs are interested in pursuing a pair of separate deals involving the Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and Sacramento’s George Hill. 

As you look up and down the Cleveland roster, there are a ton of players who have done some amazing things in this league. 

Derrick Rose is a former league MVP. 

Dwyane Wade has won multiple NBA titles with and without LeBron James. 

Former Celtic Isaiah Thomas emerged from being an NBA afterthought to a player just a year ago had the highest scoring average of any player in the Eastern Conference. 

But that past success has meant little this season as the Cavs (27-17) are looking more and more like a team that instead of racing past foes, is closer to being put out to pasture as a title contender. 

They have to do something to try and close the ever-increasing gap forming between them and Boston and to a certain degree, the Toronto Raptors (30-13) who also have a better record than Cleveland. 

The most tradable asset Cleveland has besides James, is Kevin Love. 

He is having another all-star caliber season for the Cavs, but Love’s strong play can’t mask the team’s biggest weakness – team defense. 

Cleveland has a defensive efficiency rating of 109.2 which ranks 28th (out of 30 teams) in the NBA. 

Which is why making a move for Jordan would on many levels make a lot of sense. 

Cleveland would be parting ways with one of the best stretch bigs in the NBA in Love, but they would be adding a defensive presence in the middle that would instantly elevate them from being a cellar dweller defensively in the NBA.

And because of their $22.6 million salaries, you could make the deal straight-up without needing to include any additional players or picks.

As we’ve seen through the years, teams that compete at the highest of levels and make deep playoff runs tend to be average to above-average squads defensively. 

Which is why the Celtics (34-12) and their top-rated defense have been on the short list of title contenders who don’t reside in the Bay Area.

The addition of Jordan to the Cavs roster would certainly close that defensive gap that exists between Boston and Cleveland now. 

But that won’t be enough. 

They could use a little more fire power and versatility on the perimeter which is why the pursuit of George Hill would be a smart pick-up. 

Cleveland is helped by the fact that Hill is not happy with how things are playing out with the Kings in what has been a season that hasn’t gone quite how many in Sacramento had intended. 

Things began to unravel when Scott Perry left the franchise to become the General Manager of the New York Knicks. His departure seemed to usher in the return of their being a rebuilding mindset which is not what Hill signed up for. 

So, a chance for him to leave one of the worst teams in the NBA to play for one that’s focused on competing for titles, would be a welcomed change for sure. 

But what will the price be? 

The Cavs would certainly try and peddle J.R. Smith or Iman Shumpert in a deal, but that’s not likely to get the attention of the Kings unless the Brooklyn pick Cleveland acquired in the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade with Boston, is included. 

Short of that, Cleveland might be asked to part with Isaiah Thomas although two league executives told NBC Sports Boston on Friday night that the idea of Thomas being traded back to the team that drafted him with the 60th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, is “highly unlikely” at this time.

The bottom line is we’re at the halfway point of the season and Cleveland doesn’t look like a team that’s built to compete for a title, and hasn’t shown signs of that changing anytime soon. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics have lost two in a row but their outlook is considerably more rosy. Not only because they have the best record in the East, but also because the identity of their team – good defensively, rarely gets blown out and can come back from huge deficits and beat anybody in the league, Golden State included – is akin to what you expect to see from title contenders. 

And while Cleveland didn’t get off to the best of starts last season and still managed to get all the way to the NBA Finals, there are a few changes this go around. 

There are legitimate threats to them in the East (Boston, Toronto) when last season truth be told, there were none. 

At this point a year ago, they were 30-14.

Today, they are 27-17. 

And maybe most important, as great a player as LeBron James is, he is not going to get them back to the Finals by himself. He’s worked harder than expected to get them to where they are now. 

Unless he gets more help, be it internally or externally via trade, James will find himself in an unfamiliar role when the NBA Finals around – a spectator.

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