INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- The voting results for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year were announced Monday, with Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson finishing a distance fifth behind the winner, Toronto’s Lou Williams.
While Thompson won’t be receiving any hardware for his role, the fourth-year big man was rewarded for his efforts off the bench with the first playoff win of his career in the Cavaliers’ 113-100 victory over the Boston Celtics in Sunday’s Game 1.
Thompson had 12 points and six rebounds (four on the offensive glass) in 26 minutes and helped dig the Cavs out of an eight-point deficit in the second quarter with his infusion of energy on the boards and in the paint.
"Multiple-effort guy,” Cavs coach David Blatt said of Thompson. “He's relentless in terms of getting to the ball and a guy that you don't have to specifically play through him, there's a gray area and he relishes that role and that's important that you take ownership of a certain skill set and it really contributes to the team's overall success.”
Thompson knows exactly where he fits in with the Cavs.
“It’s like a company,” Thompson said. “You have your sanitation workers. You have your janitor. Your CEO. You have your secretaries. I don’t mind being the clean-up guy, punching the clock. I’ll do all the little things.
“I’ll be a janitor forever. There’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone has their place in the factory. I don’t mind doing the little things. That’s what it takes to win and be great.”
While Boston’s bench, led by Isaiah Thomas’ 22 points and 10 assists, actually outscored the Cavs’ second unit 55-29, there were several key momentum-swinging plays by Thompson’s fellow substitutes.
Shawn Marion checked in with 31 seconds remaining in the third and picked up two steals before the end of the quarter, one of which led to James Jones' buzzer-beating 3 that put Cleveland up by 15.
James Jones scored eight points on 3-for-5 shooting including five points in the final two minutes of the third quarter to recapture the Cavs’ mojo after the Celtics had cut Cleveland’s 20-point lead down to six with a 14-0 run.
After Jones finished the third quarter with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, he raised both of his arms and faced the crowd like a gladiator at the Colosseum.
“I think he’s been waiting on this moment for a long time, the opportunity to play in the postseason,” LeBron James said of Jones. “I know what he’s capable of doing. I’ve been with him for so long now. For him to have a moment like that last night, I was extremely happy for him.”
For all the talk about Cleveland’s Big Three setting the tone with 69 combined points in Game 1, it was the collective effort that made the difference.
“It’s a big lift,” Blatt said of the performance of the Cavs’ supporting cast. “Those are winning plays. Those are winning plays and there were a lot of them for us yesterday and we needed them all to beat that team.”
Kendick Perkins, who didn’t check into the game, also had a part in the victory as he was the last player to address the Cavs in the tunnel before they took the court with team-centric message.
“I think he’s going to be a big part of our success both on and off the floor,” James said of Perkins. “His experience. His knowledge of the game. It’s key. He has a voice in our locker room. He has a voice on our bench. We all respect that.”
Blatt wants to be able to continue to lean on his bench throughout the Cavs’ playoff run.
“I think it’s more than just intangibles, although intangibles are a very, very important element,” Blatt said. “But, no, you need performance, you need substance and we got it. We certainly got it from Tristan, from Shump and everybody that stepped in there gave us important minutes.”