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NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: CAVALIERS vs CELTICS

May 22, 2018

Brad Stevens

Boston, Massachusetts: Practice Day

Q. Last night after the game, your immediate impressions were that you needed to be better in transition, deal with offensive rebounds and get good shots, and I wanted to ask you after looking at the tape, without revealing too much, further impressions of those observations?
BRAD STEVENS: I thought we battled on the glass for the most part, and I thought we were -- you know, we had a couple that didn't go our way that we needed to try to come down with. But there's no doubt that our lack of efficiency offensively and transition D were the two biggest differentiators last night. It's one of those games where you re-watch, and obviously there were a lot of opportunities for us. Cleveland did a good job. They deserved to win. But hopefully we'll play better.

Q. Did you notice any similarities in falling behind by 15 points after one quarter in Game 3 and 16 in Game 4? And what do you need to do better in Game 5 early on?
BRAD STEVENS: Well, we started off better yesterday. I think it was like 11-10 about four or five minutes into the game, and then our last six-plus minutes of the first quarter probably decided the game. I think it was -- at one point in time, it was 37-18 in that game, and they really hadn't gone to a lot of their pick-and-rolls and all the stuff that we were talking about after the game. It was just we gave up transition baskets, we weren't very efficient offensively. Obviously we missed some opportunities at the rim, and that hurts you. But we've got to be better in that early stage.

I thought the end of the first, end of the third, as I said last night, probably the two most impactful times of the game.

Q. To that point, is there anything you can say either during the game, during a timeout or after the fact, after the game or in practice to enforce the feeling that you guys need to slow down and everything is going to be fine, because it looked like, at least to the naked eye, that you guys may have gotten hurried in your offensive execution?
BRAD STEVENS: Well, sometimes you get that way when you're behind so much. You try to hit home runs and you try to do that kind of stuff, obviously. You're playing against the best of the best on a great stage, and I thought that we did get hurried a little bit. But Cleveland had something to do with that, and we had something to do with that, and we have to be better. You can say until you're blue in the face, I think, play with poise, find the best shot, continue to move on to the next possession, but there are times where everybody succumbs to getting rushed. We certainly did our fair share of that last night.

Q. It seemed that Terry [Rozier] got caught on a lot of switches getting isolated by a variety of people last night. How can you sort of combat that?
BRAD STEVENS: Well, we did some different things in the second half. We'll have more -- we'll continue to mix it up, but at the end of the day, we didn't feel like that's what beat us. Again, it goes back to the offense and the transition. LeBron is going to score some on anybody, and you have to make it as tough as possible. The first two times he had Terry in isolation, he shot a great turnaround from 16 feet, and Terry contested, he was fading away. It was a heck of a shot. Tip your hat, you go to the other end. The next play, Terry fouled him by swiping at the same shot, probably out of the desire to make that a little bit tougher to change the result from the previous one. There were some actions or some plays that I think we can do a better job of making it more difficult and avoiding that matchup, but it's going to happen some. You know, that's part of, as I said last night, that's part of the poison, because there's such great three-point shooters around, and if you get running around too much or unorganized, that's when they just spray those threes on you, and then you have no chance. It's a fine line. It's a balance.

But those things were not as impactful in my opinion as the offensive inefficiencies and transition defense.

Q. The three-point shot was a pretty significant part of Jayson Tatum's rookie season, and he's been really good at it. The last two games in Cleveland [he] took a total of three. Is that more a function of what they were doing defensively to take that shot away from him, or is there something more to the lack of threes he took in Cleveland?
BRAD STEVENS: Well, I think as a team, we need to do a better job of getting our best shot, including some drive-and-kick inside-out threes, but I don't think that's specific -- not like there's multiple times where we necessarily missed Jayson on that. Maybe once or twice. And then they're guarding him. They're making it as tough as possible. They can do some switching. They're doing a lot of switching. When LeBron guards the ball handler in pick-and-roll, he switches a ton, which, again, as we just talked about, keeps them out of rotations, allows them to lock into their guys, and they're good at it. Sometimes you have to take what's given to you.

Q. Tatum was named to the NBA's First-Team All-Rookie Team. Just your thoughts on that?
BRAD STEVENS: Well, I think he should be. He's had an unbelievable rookie year. I don't know who's all on the team. I haven't looked at all that stuff. But I know that any awards that come his way is well-deserving.

Q. Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell were unanimous picks, and Tatum was one vote shy of being unanimous. What do you think of that?
BRAD STEVENS: Somebody made a mistake.

Q. The rebounding, you guys had the same amount of offensive rebounds last night but they had 10 more defensive rebounds. One, how do you kind of offset that, and secondly, how do you guys become better in the paint? A lot of missed shots that usually go in; is that just happenstance? Is that their defense? Is that rushing the offense? What do you make of that?
BRAD STEVENS: Well, I mean, there was a couple. Like the missed dunks, those happen. You know, the Jaylen [Brown] one specifically, he's going to make that 9.9999 out of 10 times.

But on some of the other plays at the rim, they're doing a good job of getting to us, contesting us, making it as tough as possible, and you know, at that time, we either have to finish with authority or we have to make a kick-out.

Q. Are guys a little bit too -- they're looking for calls, Jayson? Do they have to assume they're not going to get a call, even when there is contact?
BRAD STEVENS: Well, I think you always have to assume that. You always go up with the intent if you're going to shoot it to finish with authority, and then if you go to the line, get an and-one. And if not, again, if there's two people at the rim and they're the level of athletes that [Tristan] Thompson and LeBron and guys like that are, then you've got to spray it to somebody else.

Q. Now we're three playoff series, three years of you and your staff focusing in on LeBron. His game has grown, it's amazing, but tendencies -- again, without revealing too much, dealing with LeBron?
BRAD STEVENS: Well, LeBron is the best player of this generation, and he's just maintained that because of his commitment to improvement. You know, he's always been an unbelievable physical player. He's always been a savvy player. And he's always had, just like the natural instincts, to make the right basketball play along with a tremendous skill set.

What's really, I think, just taken him to a whole different level is obviously the experience of having played in so many of these situations and being able to read everything that's going on around the court. You know, being able to shoot the jump shot at the level and rate that he can now, I mean, it's just -- you know, when I first came into the league in, I think it was 2013, 2014, a lot of teams were going under him, and you just can't do that and feel good about it over a seven-game series. You may mix that in occasionally because it might be the lesser of two evils, as we said before, but at the end of the day, he's too good to do it. It's a testament to him and his work. That's why it's so fun to get a chance to compete against him.

Q. So in competing against him, is it a matter of concentration and effort and shadowing, all those things, because obviously you're here to win the series?
BRAD STEVENS: Make it as hard as you can. That's all you can do. Make it as hard as you can.

Q. How would you assess the effort level of Marcus Smart last night, even when the shots weren't falling or there would be a turnover or two? His intensity throughout the game was very high; I was just curious to get your read on that.
BRAD STEVENS: He always plays hard, no doubt about it. And I thought our team's intensity was very high last night. We just didn't play as well as they did.

Q. Is there any way Shane Larkin gets in this series?
BRAD STEVENS: I'd say there's a chance of that, but I doubt it for tomorrow night. I don't know what he'll be listed as. I don't know if he'll be listed as doubtful. My guess would be he'll be listed as out, but I have not talked to our trainers yet about it.

Q. How is he coming along?
BRAD STEVENS: He's coming along well. Yeah, he's making good progress.

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