Despite Tristan Thompson’s success containing Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas during Monday night’s Game 1 win over Toronto, Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue will stick with Kevin Love as the team’s starting center in Game 2 on Wednesday night, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“I like (Tristan’s) impact off the bench,” Lue said after Game 1. “Just his physicality. He changed the game with offensive rebounding, his energy. It was big for us. I just like what he’s doing off the bench right now. If we have to adjust at some point, we will. (But) his presence off the bench has been huge.”
Valanciunas did most of his damage against the Cavs while the relatively undersized Love was guarding him, finishing with 21 points and 21 rebounds in 34 minutes. Per McMenamin, via ESPN Stats & Research, Valanciunas shot only 1-for-6 when Thompson was guarding him, and 6-for-13 against all other defenders, including Love. And while Love wouldn’t come out and say as much, he intimated that he prefers to play power forward alongside Thompson as opposed to center.
“It’s been my whole career I’ve played at the 4,” he said. “I would say absolutely (I’m more comfortable playing the 4). (But) Ty sees something different and I think offensively, once I get myself going, we could use that to our advantage. As of right now I need to find some easy buckets. They were right there tonight I just couldn’t put them down.”
For his part, Lue admitted that the Cavs need to do a better job of “trying to protect” Love when Valanciunas posts up so Love doesn’t get “so worn down”. Yet, Lue feels that Love’s ability to space the floor against Valanciunas on the offensive end of the floor overshadows any potential size disadvantage on defense.
“Whatever is good for the team is what we’re going to do,” Lue said. “I think (putting Love at the 4) spreads the floor out for us. Valanciunas is going to go to help and try to block shots. Kevin is going to have open shots all night, so, whatever is best for the team is what we’re going to do.”
In eight games this postseason, Love is averaging just 10.9 points per game on 31.9 percent shooting overall and 38.5 percent from deep. Meanwhile, Thompson is shooting 64.7% from the field and a relatively sizzling 83.3% from the free throw line after shooting only 54.4% from the stripe during the regular season.