Al Horford was sound in the first two rounds. Now, he’s struggling vs. Cavs
Al Horford had done his best to carry the Celtics through the first two rounds of the playoffs. His .730 true shooting percentage — a metric that factors in field goals, 3-pointers, and free throws — was the best in NBA playoff history among players who had attempted at least 75 shots.
But in the Eastern Conference finals the Cavaliers have been able to slow the four-time All-Star a bit, thanks in large part to the play of center Tristan Thompson. Horford has been held to 11 points in each game, tying his second-lowest output of these playoffs, while making just 8 of 20 shots.
“I just think Tristan is just so versatile,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said of Thompson. “He can show, he can blitz, he can switch. With Horford, he was shooting 58 percent from 3 [in the playoffs] and that’s because a lot of [centers] are guarding him. They were dropping and couldn’t get back to him. We just wanted to give him a different look, because we know he’s a dangerous player and he’s a key to their offense.”
Horford’s true shooting in these playoffs now sits at .700, which is still an impressive figure. But if Boston is to overcome another 2-0 deficit (now without Isaiah Thomas for the remainder of the playoffs) it will likely need Horford to regain the rhythm he had during the conference semifinals, when he made 8 of 11 3-pointers during one three-game stretch.
“Tristan has been doing a good job of showing on Isaiah and getting back to [Horford] and trying to make him put the ball on the floor,” Lue said.
“Just trying to mix it up and just keep him off balance.”
Horford, for one, is confident he and his teammates can get untracked.
“There’s no magic formula,” he said. “We need to just go out there and play, help each other on defense, and I’m sure the shots will fall on Sunday.”
Lue’s plan pays off
The Cavaliers scuffled during the final month of the regular season, and Lue drew some criticism for sometimes placing more importance on rest than victories. Now, though, he appears to have followed the perfect blueprint.
Cleveland is a perfect 10-0 in these playoffs, including consecutive seismic wins over the top-seeded Celtics at TD Garden.
“If you’re going to be a championship team, you’re going to have to win on the road,” Lue said. “We just chose health and rest over everything else.”
Auriemma drops in
After Boston’s Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers, UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma stopped by Celtics coach Brad Stevens’s office. Auriemma, whose Huskies had their NCAA-record 111-game winning streak snapped in April, probably couldn’t offer much advice on how to bounce back from a 44-point loss.
“He wasn’t very good at understanding what I was going through,” Stevens said.
“But nonetheless, I picked his brain for as long as I could.”
History to forget
The Celtics’ 41-point halftime deficit in Game 2 was the largest in the history of the playoffs and their 44-point loss was the largest ever suffered by a No. 1 seed and the team’s worst home playoff loss.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@