Remember how Tristan Thompson was going to challenge Golden State’s big men all series long, attack the glass and score with relative ease in the paint? Through two games of the Finals, he’s done precisely none of those things, and has instead found himself being outrebounded by the diminutive Stephen Curry while playing just 21.5 minutes per game.
Thompson turned in a dud of a performance in Game 1 and went scoreless while collecting only four boards. Ahead of Sunday’s Game 2, the big man talked a big game, telling reporters he was prepared for a “wrestling match” in the paint. Well if Sunday was a wrestling match, Thompson certainly lost, as the 6’9″ center scored eight points on 4-of-7 shooting and pulled down a whopping four more rebounds. Take a look at the list of players with more rebounds in the Finals than Thompson.
Kevin Love (CLE) — 28
LeBron James (CLE) — 26
Kevin Durant (GSW) — 22
Draymond Green (GSW) — 17
Stephen Curry (GSW) — 16
Klay Thompson (GSW) — 11
Iman Shumpert (CLE) — 9
Tristan Thompson (CLE) — 8
This is the same Tristan Thompson who averaged a double-double in the 2016 Finals while giving Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green all they could handle in the post. Now he’s being outplayed by Zaza Pachulia? Something’s up. The Warriors have barely even had to use JaVale McGee, their tallest big man and one who some thought could present a counter to Thompson if he stepped up in the series. McGee’s played just eight minutes in the Finals, but even he has seven rebounds.
A -18 performance from Thompson in 21 minutes on Sunday forced coach Tyronn Lue to think outside the box. Lue scraped so far down in the bottom of the barrel that he pulled out a 34-year-old Channing Frye for 11 minutes of action after Frye only saw the court for 12 total minutes in the previous four games combined. Now there are reports that Lue is rethinking his lineup and rotations with the series heading back to Cleveland.
Though those changes may be mostly guard-based, Thompson is certainly one of the supporting cast members whose lack of contributions has been a problem for LeBron and company thus far against Golden State. Thompson shot 64 percent in the Finals last season. So far in two losses against the Warriors, he’s at 40 percent. For a team looking to match up offensively with arguably the most high-powered offense of all-time, that won’t fly.
Game 3 is do-or-die for the Cavaliers, and by extension, each of their players. Win or lose on Wednesday, Thompson seems one no-show away from being seriously reevaluated as a necessity for Cleveland in this series. If the Cavs lose again and he’s absent, it’ll be time for some desperation moves by Lue and LeBron. If they somehow win with Thompson failing to contribute for the third game in a row, they’ll stick to whatever they did right in future games. So consider Game 3 to be a test for Thompson. It could very well be his last shot to show that the up-tempo, fast-paced style of play these Finals have displayed isn’t too overwhelming for him. So far, it has been.