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It’s not something a professional athlete admits often, but two of them did… from the same team, on the same day.
In the leadup to Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals tonight (8:30, ESPN), two members of the Cleveland Cavaliers said the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions were soft in a 108-83 Game 1 loss to the Boston Celtics on Sunday afternoon at TD Garden.
“I think in the first half we were a little soft,” five-time All-Star forward Kevin Love said. “Just letting a few of their guys get open looks and get a good feel.
“They’ve been playing extremely well throughout these playoffs. The players have been stepping up for them. We just need to be better at making them feel us.”
Tristan Thompson, expected to get the start at center in Game 2 after coming off the bench in Game 1, backed up the assessment of Love, who will slide back to his natural power forward slot if Thompson starts at center.
“I think as a team, 1 through 5, we’ve got to all play tougher,” Thompson, who scored eight points and hauled down 11 boards in 21 minutes Sunday, said. “Obviously, when I check in the game, I’ll try to bring that toughness and that energy. But our starters have got to be ready to throw the first punch.
“We need them to do that. We need them to be physical and set a tone early. If they do that from opening tip, it makes it easier for the second unit to come in and keep that energy going.”
If Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue does indeed turn to Thompson to start in the pivot, it will be largely because of how he has played against Boston’s Al Horford throughout his career. While Thompson was a starter in Cleveland’s lineup the past three seasons, the Cavaliers were 12-1 against Horford, as a member of the Atlanta Hawks and the Celtics.
Horford shot 8-of-20 and scored 20 points for the Celtics in Game 1 on Sunday.
“Horford’s a very good player; he’s an All-Star,” Thompson said. “If you can’t get up to play All-Star bigs, then I have nothing to tell you. Whenever you go against him, we’ve had a history, especially in Atlanta with him and [Paul] Millsap, with Chicago Joakim [Noah] and Pau [Gasol], those are All-Star bigs that are very good players and for me a guy that wants to keep getting better and keep proving myself, you get up for those games.”