Back­court blues: Cava­liers’ Smith, Hill hor­ri­ble in Game 2

Duo was outscored 41-3 by Bos­ton’s start­ing guards

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - BASEBALL -

CLEVE­LAND — J.R. Smith reached out, placed his hands on Al Hor­ford’s back and shoved Bos­ton’s big man out of bounds.

It was the only time Smith was on tar­get.

Smith’s shoddy per­for­mance in Tues­day night’s Game 2 — he missed all seven shots and com­mit­ted a fla­grant foul in 27 for­get­table min­utes — un­der­scored a star­tling dis­par­ity be­tween Cleve­land’s and Bos­ton’s start­ing back­courts that al­lowed the fear­less Celtics to with­stand a bril­liant, 42-point ef­fort by LeBron James and pre­vail 107-94 for a 2-0 series lead.

Smith and point guard Ge­orge Hill were outscored 41-3 by Bos­ton’s Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier, who were faster, hun­grier and maybe tougher.

“I don’t think tougher,” Smith said af­ter­ward, show­ing bet­ter de­fen­sive in­stincts than dur­ing the game. “They made shots, we missed shots at the end of the day. We had some good looks, they didn’t fall. For them play­ing on their home court, they fell. It’s a mat­ter for us to bounce back, go home, try and get (win) two, even the series up and come back here.”

Thanks to the NBA’s odd sched­ul­ing, Game 3 is not un­til Satur­day, giv­ing Cavs coach Ty­ronn Lue plenty of time to con­sider tweaks to his start­ing lineup and ro­ta­tions. Af­ter a 25-point lam­bast­ing in the opener, Lue al­tered his front­court by putting Tris­tan Thomp­son with the first five and bring­ing Kyle Korver off the bench.

The moves worked as Thomp­son pro­vided needed en­ergy and Korver knocked down four 3-point­ers and had Bos­ton’s de­fense fo­cused on more than James.

Now, Lue has to pon­der an­other shake-up.

One op­tion is to rein­sert Korver at small for­ward, sit Hill and slide James to the point, where he typ­i­cally plays any­way but where he’ll be more sus­cep­ti­ble to dou­ble teams and will have to work harder than he is Rock­ets guard Eric Gor­don gets around War­riors for­ward Dray­mond Green dur­ing Game 2 of the Western Con­fer­ence fi­nals in Hous­ton. The Rock­ets won 127-105 to even the series. Go to Rich­ for a re­port.


An­other pos­si­bil­ity is to drop Smith, who is 2 of 16 from the field and missed all seven 3-point­ers, from the start­ing lineup, but that would be risky be­cause of his mer­cu­rial na­ture. Sit him and risk never get­ting him back.

Lue is will­ing to live with Smith’s streak­i­ness — he went 6 for 6 in Game 4 against the Rap­tors — but what he can’t af­ford are the

de­fen­sive lapses that led to slow ro­ta­tions and gave Rozier and oth­ers wide-open looks in Game 2. Smith has been locked in de­fen­sively through­out the post­sea­son, so Lue is as­sum­ing he’ll get it to­gether.

Lue’s de­ci­sion not to play guard Jor­dan Clark­son for a sin­gle minute in Game 2 was cu­ri­ous, mostly be­cause Clark­son is quick enough to handle Rozier and he scored 10 points in Game 1.

Vet­eran Jose Calderon ap­pears to be out of con­sid­er­a­tion de­spite his steadi­ness and ex­pe­ri­ence. Lue may fear the 36-year-old will be tar­geted and ex­posed de­fen­sively.


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