Welcome back to the gift that is back to giving. The blog that believes men lie, women lie, numbers lie, but the facts don't. It is another edition of Tha Weatha Report. The NBA finals are in full swing, and the juggernaut known as the Golden State
Monstars Warriors are up by a commanding 3-0 lead over the Cleveland Generals Cavaliers. To some, we are seeing the passing of the torch from LeBron James to Kevin Durant for the title of best player in the world. We won't get into all that, because it is way too soon to take that title away from LeBron. But we all know how it goes in situations like this. When a team is dominated in two games and then their soul snatched in Mortal Kombat style in the third game, the talk centers on who's fault is it. Most pundits are pointing the finger at King James. Which is fair. If you are granted the aforementioned mystical title, you have to take the good with the bad. After all, to the victor go the spoils. But when you lose in the fashion that Cleveland has, well...you get the blame. However, LeBron James isn't to blame in this case. Sure, he gets his fair share of the burden, but he isn't alone in this situation. So who is to blame? Mr. Tyronn Lue...come on down! You're the next contestant on that Summer Jam screen. That's right, Cleveland's struggles fall squarely on the shoulders of the man who holds the clipboard.
According to BasketballReference.com, Cleveland averaged 96.2 possessions per game in the regular season. This placed Cleveland right in the middle of the NBA pack at 15th in the league. For reference, Golden State averaged 99.8 possessions a game which placed them at 4th in the NBA. Sure, four or so extra possessions per game may not sound like much but that's four additional sprints up and down the court. That's four more defensive possessions that taxes the mind and body. In addition, when you're a 32 year old, 6'8 260 lbs guy who's played in 7 straight NBA finals and has almost 10,000 playoff minutes and over 41,000 regular season minutes under your belt, those four possessions start to take on a different meaning.
Here's where the blame starts to fall at Lue's feet: prior to the NBA finals, the games Cleveland was involved in averaged 90.6 possessions per game. In the NBA finals? 105 possessions per game. Obviously, Cleveland had plenty of success playing games where possessions were in the low 90s as they compiled a 12-1 playoff record prior to the finals. It stands to reason that Cleveland is a better team in games that have a slower pace than that of their finals opponents. So can someone explain why Tyronn Lue is insistent on playing at a fast pace against a team that thrives on a fast pace like a pride of lions on a zebra?!? While it is true that Cleveland's worse two games prior to the finals were games in which there was an average of 90.8 and 92.6 possessions a game. But those were against Indiana and Boston respectively, and no one would describe those two squads as having a ton of firepower.
Prior to game two, Lue was quoted as saying "Playing faster, but taking care of the basketball. But we've got to be, we got to play with pace. They're a good half-court defensive team. We know that, so we can't get bogged down in the half-court offense." While true, it ignores the fact that fighting fire with fire is not an advisable course of action in this situation. Game one averaged a pace of 102.5. Golden State won by 22. Game two's average pace was 108.5. Golden State won by 19. Game three was played at a 103.3 pace. Golden State won by 5. At least Cleveland is getting closer. However, it would've made more sense for Lue to see the trend that developed out of the first two games and slow the game down to take away Golden State's transition game. Instead, Lue's stubbornness and refusal to take away one of the Warriors' strengths has his team facing an 0-3 hole and becoming a footnote in NBA history as Golden State attempts to become the first team to go 16-0 in the postseason.
While the players hold 50% of the blame for the massive hole that the Cavs find themselves in, overlooking the fact that the correct coaching adjustments have not been made ignores the other 50% of the equation. Golden State has looked unstoppable all season long, so it is possible that no amount of adjustments would have changed the outcome of the series. But Lue is paid to make adjustments and outperform Mike Brown and Steve Kerr. It is clear that, just like his team, Lue has been shown up by the Warriors' coaches. At least he'll have plenty of time in the summer to figure out his shortcomings.