Getting outscored 60-38 in the paint in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals should have been enough to convince Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue to make a change.
Al Horford making seven of eight from the field when guarded by Kevin Love also should have shown Lue he didn’t have the right plan for the Boston Celtics.
But in his final answer Monday, Lue dropped an analytical nugget that revealed he’s likely to start center Tristan Thompson in Tuesday night’s Game 2.
“Looking at the statistics, over the last three years with at least 30 possessions defending him, out of all the guys that have guarded Al Horford, Tristan is No. 1 in the league,” Lue said during practice.
Thompson has made only one start this postseason: Game 7 of the first round against Indiana, and he responded with 15 points and 10 rebounds in 35 minutes. In Sunday’s 108-83 loss at TD Garden, Thompson scored eight points, making four of six shots, with 11 rebounds in 21 minutes.
Asked if he might change his lineup, Lue said, “It’s definitely something we have to weigh.”
Thompson’s strategy against Horford doesn’t sound complicated.
“Just be myself, be very active, be active early. Horford’s playing very well right now and he’s shooting the crap out of the ball,” Thompson said of Horford, who’s shooting 59.3% from the field, including 37.9% on threes. “When I do check in the game, whether it’s him or Aron Baynes, I just try to run the floor, set pick and rolls. Just try to work Horford on both ends so hopefully by the second half his legs might be a little tired where he might not make that three that he makes in the first half.”
The new coaches
Igor Kokoskov is the first NBA head coach born and raised outside North America, but he stressed to everyone at his introductory news conference with the Phoenix Suns, “I don’t consider myself as a European coach. I’m an NBA coach.”
Kokoskov just finished his 18th season as an NBA assistant. But the 46-year-old Serbian understands the perception he’s an outsider.
“I kind of carry some responsibilities because if this fails, then American media and the public are going to say, ‘See, they can’t coach. We’ve got to stick with our guys,’” Kokoskov said.
In Atlanta, Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce also accepted the challenge of stepping up from being an assistant.
“If we weren’t doing this press conference right now, I’d probably have these guys doing some defensive drills,” Pierce said.
The 42-year-old was joined by four of his new players as well as Philadelphia’s Robert Covington, one of the players Pierce worked with on the 76ers.
“He’s helped me so much in my career, it’s only right that I be here,” he said.