Over the past few seasons, the Cleveland Cavaliers have had an energy player who ignites the team in the time of need. In their championship campaign in 2016 it was Matthew Dellavedova, last season it was veteran Richard Jefferson.
This year, however, it's been Tristan Thompson who has emerged as the x-factor that the Cavs have needed throughout the 2018 playoffs.
Thompson finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and two momentous shifting blocks that got the crowd on their feet in Cleveland's 111-102 series tying win over the Boston Celtics .
"Perk (Kendrick Perkins) always says the job of big men is you got to bring the toughness, bring the energy," Thompson said post-game. "We're the back line of defence. Myself and Kev(in Love) - whether it's in the pick and roll or multiple actions our guys rely on us to communicate and call the coverages out and have everyone's back."
It's no secret that Thompson wasn't playing the minutes many expected him to get once the post-season started. Whether that's because of matchups, off-court issues or his overall health after missing most of March with a right ankle injury we'll never know. What we do know is he's not only back in the rotation but he's starting and giving the Cavs the energy they so sorely lacked in their losses throughout the playoffs.
In the four games Thompson has started in the postseason he's
averaged 11.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and is a plus-7 - the Cavaliers
are 3-1 in those games. Cleveland has outscored their
opponent in those contests by a combined 30 points. They've also led after the first quarter in all his starts.
"He's been great," head coach Tyronn Lue said post-game. "The biggest thing I think for Tristan is he's gotten health. When he had the time off he really did a good job of working on his body - playing 5-on-5 with the guys, staying in shape. He was a pro about it.
"You have somebody like Tristan (who's) been to three straight Finals and then he doesn't play it's tough. He could've gave in but he stayed the course. He continued to work on his body, work on his game - called his number in Game 7 (against Indiana) he was ready to go and the rest was history."
Tristan Thompson was all hustle in Game 4 with 13 PTS & 12 REB #WhateverItTakes pic.twitter.com/DPPpG814is- NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) May 22, 2018
With the series shifting back to Boston for Game 5 on Wednesday, all eyes will be on LeBron James' supporting cast. Like all the other Cavs not named LeBron Thompson's numbers take a dip away from Quicken Loans Arena. If Cleveland want to take a lead for the first time in the Eastern Conference Finals they'll need the "others" to pack their games for the trip.
The Celtics haven't lost at home yet in the playoffs (9-0), Thompson knows he and the Cavs have a big task at hand to steal one in Boston.
"It's not a series until you win a game on the road right," Thompson added. "They're really good at home. We know that they're going to come - their crowd is going to be into it - they're going to come fighting. They're going to be real physical like they were in Game 1 and 2.
"We gotta weather that storm...we gotta weather that storm and we gotta stay together as a team.
"If things aren't going good for us we can't go apart we gotta stay together and fight through it."