The Boston Celtics’ improbable run continued on Tuesday as Al Horford and company took a 2-0 series lead over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But there is plenty of basketball left to play in these Eastern Conference Finals. The Cavaliers, who started well in Game 2 before a dismal second half, will surely play better at home with their season on the line.
Here are some things to look out for in Game 3 on Saturday night.
Can JR Smith find his form?
Smith was not alone in struggling during the two games in Boston, but Cleveland desperately need him to knock down shots. He is one of the Cavaliers’ better defenders when engaged (a remarkable comment in itself) but his head dropped after missing three-pointers, leading to sloppy mistakes defensively. On his home court, Smith should be able to get back on track. James will likely look to get him going early on.
Which other role players can Cavaliers head coach Ty Lue turn to with confidence?
Inconsistency has plagued Cleveland all year. Despite an uptick after the trade deadline, it is tough for Lue to know what he will get on a given night from a number of his players. Jeff Green has slumped after impressing against the Toronto Raptors. Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson may be unplayable at this point, but Larry Nance Jnr. deserves more minutes in Game 3. The George Hill-Smith-Korver-James-Kevin Love line-up warrants another look.
Will James spend more time in the post?
James was terrific for long stretches of Game 2, finishing with 42 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. But bringing the ball up the court and attacking the basket from the perimeter sapped his energy. He seemed to wear down in the second half. Look for him to have more post touches on Game 3, allowing him to create good shots without working as hard.
Will Jayson Tatum be unleashed?
The Celtics have kept the Cavaliers at bay so far without a big scoring night from Tatum. The Boston rookie took 11 shots in Game 1 and 12 shots in Game 2. On the road, expect Brad Stevens to put the ball in Tatum’s hands more often. A 25-point night may be just around the corner.
Can Cleveland halt the James free agency rumours?
If the Cavaliers fall into a 0-3 hole in this series, the volume of the rumours about James’ future will reach new levels. The Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers would be among the frontrunners if James decides to leave Cleveland this summer. But fighting back in this series and reaching the NBA Finals yet again might slow down the glooming predictions.