Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports

Celtics 'pick their poison' with LeBron James, lose battle of switches

Sara Civian
May 22, 2018 - 1:44 am

It was LeBron James’ sixth 40-point game of this postseason alone, so Brad Stevens acknowledged the obvious after the Cavaliers equalized the series with a 111-102 win over the Celtics.

“He's the best in the game at evaluating the court and figuring out what he wants and where he wants it,” Stevens told reporters. “The thing about it is that you just have to battle. You just have to make it as hard as possible, because he's going to find a matchup that he ultimately wants. You have to, again, not let the other guys go off, which we did again a little bit, and then make sure you make it as tough on him as possible.”

The matchup that James ultimately wanted Monday was Terry Rozier. You better believe he got what he wanted with 44 points, five rebounds, and three assists on the game.

What, exactly, are you supposed to do when the King targets you?

“Just hope he misses, that’s about it.” Rozier told reporters. “...just gotta keep him in front and hope he misses.”

The Celtics are known for their switch-happy defense, but with Marcus Morris in foul trouble and with LeBron James being LeBron James, the Cavs managed to use switches to their advantage for the win. 16 of James’ 28 shots came inside the paint, and most of those 16 seemed to come when Rozier was forced into covering him through screens. James would get the undersized guard alone and post up on him or bully his way through in the paint.

“(James is) going to go after whoever he wants to go after,” Stevens reiterated to reporters. “But at the end of the day, we've gone through it a lot. I think one of the things that sometimes we all get consumed with is the points he scores on that switch. If it's eight but it keeps you from rotating and you can still guard the three-point line, then sometimes you just have to pick your poison.”

Seems like Stevens is sticking with what’s been his gameplan from the start of the series -- make it as tough as possible for James, with the awareness that some of that greatness is just out of the Celtics’ control. Getting back to TD Garden won’t hurt either.

 

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