The Cavs have the better Thompson

In games 5 and 6 of the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers have had the better Thompson on their side. It is understandable for Tristan Thompson’s play over these two games to have been overshadowed by the LeBron James back-to-back 41-point games and Kyrie Irving’s game 5 explosion. Thompson has done all of the little things for the Cavs in these two games, from defending multiple pick-and-rolls, to rebounding at a high rate, and even provide some scoring as well.

Over the past two games, Thompson is averaging 15.5 rebounds, 10.5 points on 77.8% field goal percentage and is second behind Irving in plus/minus at 21.5 a game. Thompson is earning every bit of his new $82 million dollar deal he penned last summer.

In this play in game 5, Thompson successfully defended the Warriors on three different pick-and-roll attempts. On the first pick-and-roll he switches onto Shaun Livingston while using his long arms to poke at the ball and forces Livingston regroup. Marreese Speights sets a second screen and pops to the three-point line, Thompson switches again and closes out on Speights as the ball arrives. Speights swings it to Leandro Barbosa and follows his pass to set another screen. Thompson then switches from Speights to Barbosa, with the shot clock ready to expire Barbosa gets the ball to the other Thompson who has to jack up a three closer to half court than the three-point line. During this defensive stand Thompson never lets the ball get below the top of the key.

On this play in game 6, Steph Curry is coming off a double stagger screen and LeBron James jumps out to take away that option leaving Draymond Green a great opportunity to slip to the basket. Thompson leaves Harrison Barnes in the strong side corner to discourage that pass to Green. The pass is instead made to Barnes and Thompson recovers quick enough to take away the corner three away. Thompson also stays down on his feet and is with Barnes every step of the way never conceding a straight line drive to the basket. Barnes forces up a difficult shot and after a scramble Thompson grabs the rebound for one of his 16.

In addition to playing great defense on the perimeter, Thompson provided some offensive firepower in game 6. In the first of two plays below, he secures the defensive rebound and outlets it to James, then beats Festus Ezeli down the court to receive a beautiful bounce pass from James for an easy transition dunk. The clip after that, he beats the Warriors to an offensive rebound and finds a cutting James for a monster two-hand slam.

Tristan Thompson finished the game with 15 points and 16 rebounds to help force a game 7 in the NBA finals. LeBron James will receive a huge amount of praise and rightfully so for how he has played, but Thompson’s contributions should not go unnoticed. His ability to switch onto the Warriors’ guards as well as rebound is a crucial piece that has put the Cavs one win away from breaking the 52-year championship drought in Cleveland.

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