VIDEO: Tyronn Lue, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James discuss Game 1 of The Finals and what needs to change in Game 2
OAKLAND — Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is doing his best to block out the white noise after his team’s 15-point loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of The Finals.
Everybody, and I mean everybody has a suggestion, a tweak Lue can try, an adjustment he can make to ensure that his team doesn’t get overwhelmed down the stretch in Game 2.
But for everything the world thinks he needs to change, Lue is confident in the game plan used in Game 1. It was the execution that was the problem. After watching the film from Game 1, Lue said his team got the things they wanted — mismatches on the offensive end, wide-open looks, countless opportunities in and around the rim and a pace, for the most part, that suited his crew.
LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love all showed up and had an impact. Sure, the bench was outscored 45-10, something no one could prepare for, but otherwise Lue liked what he saw in terms of the opportunities that presented themselves.
So forgive the first-year coach, the one who has been on this stage before as a player, for resisting the need to scrap the plan for something new after just one game.
“I don’t see a reason for change,” Lue said Friday. “I think the way they play defense, they switch 1 through 5, and it makes you play one-on-one basketball. So your movement with floppy stuff coming off of pin-downs, they just switch out and try to deny those passes. And then you’ve got to post Kevin, you’ve got to post LeBron against those mismatches. So I don’t see any reason for change. We’ve just got to convert.”
Lue’s belief in what the Cavaliers are doing, the same things that led to them blowing through the Eastern Conference playoffs to return here for a second straight season, won’t be enough for the masses.
The isolation sets he knew would come with the Warriors’ switching on defense, came to fruition. The stagnant offensive stretches that comes from indecisiveness with the ball were expected as well. Lue said his team obviously has to handle those situations better. They have to push the pace, be more decisive and finish with authority, whether they are playing isolation basketball or playing with pace.
“Coach has given us a game plan, and we need to execute it,” James said. “If Coach feels like we need to play faster, then we do. We’ve got to push the tempo a little bit more offensively, see if we can get down, get some easy baskets and get to the flow of our game. It’s been a good thing for us throughout the whole season once Coach Lue took over, so we need to do that.”
He did, however, acknowledge the narrow space that has to be navigated playing that way.
“It’s a fine line. When you’re out there and they’re switching and you have a one-on-one matchup, I think quick moves and not holding it as long is good,” James said. “I think when you keep the ball on one side for too long and you’re pounding and pounding and pounding, then that can — too much of that won’t result in good basketball. It won’t result in good rhythm for everyone out on the floor.
“So there is a fine line. I’m okay with us having some isolation basketball if we’re going quick. But we’re holding the ball and we’re just staring down the defense and we’re staring down the ball, then it can become a problem for us.”
Squandering those opportunities in a game where Warriors’ leading stars and leading scorers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combine for just 20 points, as they did in Game 1, is simply not a recipe for success.
That’s why Lue continues to harp on playing at a faster pace and to get up and down the floor, where the Cavaliers can take advantage of their strengths in that realm.
“I just think it has to be more of a fast-paced controlled tempo, if that makes any sense,” Irving said. “With us, I think that’s our missed opportunities and we were just really, really rushing. We were getting to where we like to go, but we like to play inside out, but if the outside shot is falling for us, we’re going to stick with it.
“But the ball was going into the post a lot and we watched film and we’re seeing some weak side action that we can be better at. It’s just quick, decisive decisions. We make plays, other guys get shots and we get back on defense. I think last night a few times in the post, guys were getting doubled, and we’ve got to be ready to make plays on the weak side for our teammates.”