Cavs candid about what it'll take to get out of 0-2 hole

Team knows more than just LeBron needs to step up to beat Celtics

Daryl Ruiter
May 17, 2018 - 3:17 pm
Cavaliers center Kevin Love (0), guard Kyle Korver (26), and guard JR Smith (5) watch the end of the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics in game two of the Eastern conference finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

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Independence, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Adversity is nothing new to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

They tend to create their own.

Maybe that’s why they don’t seem to be panicking even though they trail the Boston Celtics 0-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

“Right now, we've got our backs against the wall,” guard George Hill said Thursday. “But it's no time for panic. I think Boston did what they were supposed to do: take care of their home-court advantage. We have a great opportunity to do the same thing here. We've got to rally together, communicate a little bit better, play better on both ends of the floor and try to figure it out.”

Thursday afternoon, Hill and his Cavaliers teammates were pretty open about what took place in Boston and what it’ll take for them to reverse their fortunes and get back in the series starting Saturday night with Game 3.

It starts with not just relying on LeBron James to do it all.

“We're making ‘Bron play hero ball, which is tough to do, especially in the Eastern Conference Finals,” J.R. Smith, who shot 0-7 and didn’t score in Game 2, said. “We've got to help. And with that said, we have to give him the opportunity for us to make him feel confident to give us the ball, so we can make the right plays. We've got to help him, and he's got to help us.”

Despite 42 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds Tuesday night from James, the Cavs still lost by 13.

“I've never seen a game score in the 40s unless it's in the Big Ten, Penn State and Illinois and Ohio State. Other guys got to contribute,” forward/center Tristan Thompson said. “Other guys got to step up. We've all got to do it collectively. Of course it's a huge luxury having LeBron on our team, but at the same time we've got to be ready to play, and we've got to do our job. If you're shooters, you've got to make shots. If you're going to finish on the rim, you've got to finish on the rim. Rebounders, whatever your job is on this team, we need you to do it at a high level.”

Aside from James and Love, the only other Cavs to score in double figures this series have been Rodney Hood (11) and Jordan Clarkson (10) in Game 1 and Kyle Korver (11) in Game 2. Meanwhile the Celtics had 4 score in double figures in the series opener and 6 more in Game 2.  

The ball sticks and doesn't move on offense and that is a problem for Cleveland. Through 2 games the Cavs have assists on just 36 of 68 field goals while the Celtics have asissted 51 times on 83 shots made.

“I think Boston does a great job moving the ball,” Thompson said. “I think the ball -- when everyone is touching it, it gives energy and it makes guys feel good. It makes guys feel good, and as a player you feel way more comfortable making a play if you touch it every possession, not just if you're scoring. But if you just feel the ball instead of going five possessions and just getting the ball and you have to shoot it with five seconds on the clock. You've got to get the ball hopping, and if we get bodies moving, we've got the athletes and the players, and if we can cause triggers, that's going to be in our favor.”

The non-LeBron’s combined to shoot 26 of 70 and score 68 points in Game 1 and 21-51 for 52 points in Game 2. The backcourt trio of Hill, Smith and Jeff Green are a combined 6 of 28 for 29 points and just 6 assists with 7 turnovers in 2 games this series.

“I don't really play by if I get this many assists or if I get this many rebounds or this many points. I think you guys worry more about that than I do,” Hill said. “I just try to play the game, and right now I'm not playing the game the right way.”

Defensively things aren’t going much better.

What the Celtics want, they get. 

"We've got to play more physical from the start," Smith said. "A lot of times when they get the ball, they're into their offense at 19, 18 on the shot clock, and we're into ours at like 12 or 13, so we've got to pressure the ball, try to keep them out of the paint as best we can, and at the end of the day, keep contesting."

Everyone seems to be pointing to 2 common denominators: lack of physicality and communication.

“This is for all the marbles. We're down 0-2,” Thompson said. “If you don't like to talk, you're going to talk now. And if you don't want to talk, you can sit your ass on the bench. That's what it is, point blank, simple. If we're not all communicating, all five of us, we've got no chance.”