It’s not always the easiest task to adjust to a new opponent after a hard-fought seven-game series; after all, the team gets acclimated to playing against a certain opponent, and with it comes a specific gameplan that the team then tries to implement to the best of their abilities. For the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics gave them a wake-up call in Game 1 of their second-round matchup in the 2024 NBA playoffs, with the Celtics delivering a 120-95 beatdown of the Cavs.

Cavs head coach JB Bickerstaff, in particular, pointed out the jarring clash in styles between the Celtics and their opponent in the first round, the Orlando Magic. Bickerstaff revealed that the Cavs had a few difficulties adjusting to how the Celtics prioritized the three-point shot, while the Magic mostly used it as a last resort as they focused on attacking the paint.

“You go from a team that didn’t shoot a lot of threes to one that wants to shoot a whole bunch,” Bickerstaff said in his postgame presser, per Bobby Manning of CLNS Media. “We have to a better job at limiting the amount of three-pointers that they took.”

The Magic averaged 33.3 attempts from beyond the arc in their series against the Cavs; they peaked with 37 three-point attempts in Games 1 and 3 of the series, and overall, they shot 30.9 percent from three. Alas, the Celtics are a different animal when it comes to spacing the floor.

In the regular season, the Celtics led the league in three-point attempts per game, at 42.5. Despite their league-leading volume, the Celtics converted the second-best percentage of their attempts from deep — blending the best of both volume and efficiency. On Tuesday night in Game 1 against the Cavs, they made 18 of 46 threes, just three fewer makes than the Magic had in Games 6 and 7 combined.

Even without Kristaps Porzingis, the Celtics are able to field a high-octane offense, as nearly every one of their rotation players can stroke it from distance. Derrick White continues to scorch the nets, as he made seven threes in Game 1, while Jaylen Brown and Payton Pritchard made four each.

It’s always a difficult task to win in the playoffs when the mathematical battle doesn’t go your way. The Cavs aim to rectify this issue, although it’ll be an uphill climb for them to do so especially when Jarrett Allen continues to be on the mend due to a rib injury.

Can the Cavs adjust?

It’s always a dangerous game when teams decide to run their opponents off the three-point line with the hope of making them attack the basket. In the NBA, there is no taking away a team’s entire offense, especially when that offense led the league in efficiency in the regular season. There is always something that defenses will be willing to give up, and in the Cavs’ case, it seems like they’re willing to concede more dribble penetration.

However, with Jarrett Allen out, that is probably not the most enticing game plan for the Cavs to implement. The Celtics have capable slashers in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and their top four healthy offensive players can also stroke it from midrange as well. It’s not like the Celtics only take threes and layups.

When trying to limit three-point attempts, the key is to contain dribble penetration and have plenty of players who are capable of covering a ton of ground. Allen being out would already make it difficult for the Cavs to protect the rim, and it won’t help matters at all if the likes of Isaac Okoro, Max Strus, and Caris LeVert won’t step up on the defensive end.

Celtics flex their muscle

With Jarrett Allen out, the Cavs had troubles keeping the Celtics off the glass. Boston tallied 17 more rebounds than Cleveland, and despite the absence of Kristaps Porzingis, they still hauled in 13 offensive boards. Luke Kornet, in particular, was a nuisance; he inhaled six offensive rebounds, exposing Cleveland’s lack of muscle on the interior. The Cavs tried to counter with Tristan Thompson, but this is no longer 2018.

Overall, the Cavs simply may not have the two-way firepower to keep up with the Celtics. Donovan Mitchell is trying his best, but Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, the two players the Cavs see as foundational pieces, have had their fair share of struggles. At the very least, the Cavs are playing with house money. The Celtics are heavily favored to win the series. They can play without pressure, knowing that the odds are stacked against them especially after a putrid showing in Game 1.