Cavaliers finding success attacking Terry Rozier

Shaker Heights graduate the target of Cleveland pick-and-rolls

Alex Hooper
May 22, 2018 - 2:04 am
May 19, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives against Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier (12) in game three of the Eastern conference finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The only thing scary about Terry Rozier to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Monday’s Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, was the defensive responsibility he was forced into.

The Cavaliers attacked the Shaker Heights High School graduate endlessly on a series of pick-and-rolls in the win, forcing the 6-foot-2 guard into one-on-one situations against LeBron James.

Rozier did post a fine night offensively with 16 points and 11 assists, but was the focal point of the Cavalier offense as well.

Many of James’ 44 points came against Rozier, but head coach Tyronn Lue attacked the point guard often with his bigs. Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson each got their touches early against Rozier, and converted.

Lue often avoids disclosing his game plans to the media, and even fought the line of questioning regarding the Cavaliers’ best option on the interior before he wore down.

“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 and Bron because the other four guys are the same size,” Lue said. “They're strong. They're physical. So the way they play, you've got to try to take advantage of the mismatch because they don't have a lot on the floor at the same time. To answer your question, we've got to just get to it and then we've got to make the right plays out of it.”

In the final two minutes and a four-possession lead, the Cavs cleared the side of the floor with James and George Hill, who was Rozier’s natural match defensively. Hill handling the ball, James would set a screen and seal off Rozier for a post-up.

When James had the ball and Hill set the screen, an attempt to switch Marcus Smart back onto LeBron backfired in a big way.

“I think this league is all predicated on trying to find mismatches,” James said. “That's every team. 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. We're all trying to find mismatches for us to try to be successful offensively. 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. Then you try to execute or just try to get a bucket. We've been very successful in the last two games with doing that. Boston was very successful the first two games with doing that.”

Hill noted that while Rozier was the physical mismatch in terms of strength, James’ playmaking abilities were heightened further by his ability to see over the guard. The Cavs point guard also alluded to several attempts to switch James onto Marcus Morris, who dealt with foul trouble all night.

So why would Celtics coach Brad Stevens allow James and other bigs to abuse his point guard on the defensive end? The Cavaliers torched Boston from deep in Game 3, 17-for-34 from deep.

Stevens more-or-less conceded that LeBron is going to likely have an advantage over one of any group of five opponents on a course at one time. Sometimes that is the nature of the beast.

“I think one of the things that sometimes we all get consumed with is the points he scores on that switch,” Stevens said. “If it's eight but it keeps you from rotating and you can still guard the three-point line, then sometimes you just have to pick your poison.”