2 adjustments Cleveland Cavaliers must make to steal Game 1 from Boston Celtics

Entering Round 2 as heavy underdogs, the Cleveland Cavaliers must adjust to limit the Boston Celtics and maximize their potential.
Cleveland Cavaliers v Chicago Bulls
Cleveland Cavaliers v Chicago Bulls / Michael Reaves/GettyImages
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Adjustment No. 2 - Target Al Horford on offense

With Porzingis missing the series, the Cleveland Cavaliers have an opportunity to exploit the Celtics' shallow depth, especially in the frontcourt. At 37 years old, Al Horford has stayed a valuable piece of Boston's success, but Cleveland's youth and growing star Evan Mobley have the tools to wear Horford down and create an advantage for the Cavs.

Mismatches can make or break a team in the NBA Playoffs. While the Celtics know how to switch and help on defense, the Cavaliers should have enough plays where they can isolate Horford or force him to run up and down the court in pick-and-roll actions. If Horford switches onto Donovan Mitchell, Mitchell must drive and create contact before Horford can get set or Holiday or White can recover in help coverage.

Alternatively, if Horford stays on Mobley or Allen (if he returns), Cleveland needs to put the ball in their big man's hands and push Horford around in the post. Horford is still a solid defensive presence, and he will surely stop plenty of attempts from either approach. With enough repetition, though, the Celtics will have to rest Horford and open up the interior for the Cavs to dominate. In Games 6 and 7 against the Magic, Cleveland's backcourt thrived in points in the paint. The more that the Cavaliers build their offense from the inside out, the more they can punish the Celtics' lacking bench options without running out of steam.

The Cavaliers will still have to find an answer for Holiday, White and Jaylen Brown. Jayson Tatum also lurks as a help defender for all three of Boston's defensive stalwarts. No basket will be easy for Cleveland, but they must enter the night with intentionality and no fear of getting physical. Both teams are without their starting five, but the Cavaliers can rely on their bench to sustain their impact more than the Celtics. Stealing Game 1 could shift the pendulum of the series early and give the Cavaliers a pathway to the Conference Finals. It all starts with exploiting any small flaw they can find in the Celtics.

The Cleveland Cavaliers visit TD Garden to take on the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, May 7 with a 7:30pm Eastern Time tip off. TNT will broadcast the game nationally.

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