Tyronn Lue

Game 4: Shaky officiating and some poor Cav decisions

Game 4: Shaky officiating and some poor Cav decisions

Before I get into some specifics about Golden State's win over Cleveland Friday night in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, let me say something that just has to be said: The officiating by the crew of Danny Crawford, Jason Phillips and Mike Callahan left a lot to be desired. A LOT.

If you happened to record the game, I'd invite you to run any number of plays back and count how many fouls went uncalled. Fouls that would have surely been called in a regular-season contest. It was ridiculous. They weren't even protecting shooters -- which is usually an NBA maxim. And when you overlook so many obvious fouls, it becomes such a random thing when you do actually call a foul. The inconsistency must make it extremely difficult to play in the game. I know it makes it hard to watch a game.

With that off my chest, let's deal with some specifics from this game:

  • There was a lot of gabbing afterward about a little tap below the belt delivered by Draymond Green to LeBron James after a scuffle between the players. Let me just say that when you knock a guy down, then make things worse by disrespecting him by walking over him, it's not surprising you might get hit between the legs as you straddle him. Enough said about that foolishness.
  • James scuffled with Green and Steph Curry in the fourth quarter -- a pretty obvious indication that his frustration level was getting pretty high. He also seemed to be battling teammate Kyrie Irving for shots down the stretch, which should never happen.
  • Cleveland Coach Tyronn Lue needs to grab more control over that team. In the fourth quarter it was just James and Irving taking turns, or taking each other's turns, going one-on-one. By now, everyone knows how ineffective that can be.
  • LeBron just hasn't ever seemed to figure out the appropriate balance between making his teammates better and getting his own good shots. It's plagued him his entire career. For as much time as he spends berating his teammates on the court, this man needs coaching more than most superstars do.
  • Speaking of coaching, I'm going to be one of the few to say this because Charles Barkley and I were the only ones who didn't agree with starting Richard Jefferson Friday night: how in the world could any coach decide it's a better idea to start Richard Jefferson than Kevin Love in a Finals game? Love ended up playing just seven seconds more than Jefferson -- which is a joke. Love is an all-star, Jefferson is washed up. I will always think that was a very silly move -- especially with James and Irving doing nothing but playing hero-ball in the fourth quarter, with Love languishing on the bench. Lue will learn real soon that sometimes you get outcoached by someone else and sometimes you outcoach yourself -- which is what he did Friday.
  • I've talked about how good Steve Kerr is as the coach of the Warriors but there's evidence in so many little things Golden State does during a game. Late, when the Cavs were trying to foul on every Warrior possession, Golden State caught the ball before it hit the ground after Cleveland made baskets and immediately got it inbounds to Steph Curry -- the league's best foul shooter. Seems like such a little thing until you see so many other teams fiddle around picking up the ball out of bounds after a make and allowing the defense to get set.
  • Lue didn't give James or Irving a break in the second half and I know a lot of fans -- the same ones who thought Damian Lillard should have played every minute of the second half of every playoff game -- think that's proper. But it isn't. These guys aren't robots.

Cavaliers are getting seriously outcoached in the Finals

Cavaliers are getting seriously outcoached in the Finals

For all you people who are on my back all the time about coaches not mattering much in the NBA, have you been watching the NBA Finals?

The Cleveland Cavaliers fired Coach David Blatt during the season and I thought it might be good for them. Blatt seemed out of his element in the NBA in terms of communicating with his players. And they didn't seem to respect him.

But the problem for the Cavs is that they replaced Blatt with Tyronn Lue. No offense here to Lue, who someday might make a pretty solid NBA coach, but this is his first try at a head-coaching job and this is no time for on-the-job training.

And so far in this series he’s seriously overmatched.  My goodness, Cleveland appears clueless.

The Cavs showed no respect for the coaching profession when they brought in back-to-back coaches with no previous experience running an NBA team – particularly one expected to contend for a world championship.

Folks, it’s not that easy.  Coaching at this level is a flat-out near impossibility. Seriously. You’ve got to keep 12 ego-driven, sometimes selfish basketball players happy while asking them – forcing them in some cases – to do a lot of things that they probably don’t want to do.

Like pass to open teammates and, in general, play unselfishly. And like playing defense with inspiration and desperation.

I’ve always judged NBA coaches by how well their teams defend. Guarding people one-on-one at the NBA level is impossible. And just telling these guys to stay between their man and the basket is not enough.

And saying after a game, as Lue did Sunday, “They were tougher than us” is really no excuse and not something to build a game plan on.

Team concepts are required to play championship-level NBA defense. Systems must be in place so players know where the help is, which ways to force the people they’re guarding and how to rotate to open shooters after double-teams. They must defend pick and rolls everywhere on the court and be able to guard the three-point line with fervor while clogging up the middle.

This isn’t easy stuff. But at least you can attempt it.

One of the teams in the NBA Finals is doing a pretty good job of all those things. The other team, Cleveland, is doing almost none of these things while looking bewildered when trying to attack the Golden State defense.

People are going to blame LeBron James but the real problem is, instead of trying to appease James with the coaching hire, they should go get someone with genuine coaching experience to handle this crew.

Cleveland is still sticking to the old-line NBA philosophy of depending too heavily on its stars in isolation instead of moving the ball and moving bodies – using offensive sets to manufacture easier shots for all of the players.

They’ve never figured out how to use Kevin Love in Cleveland, making me wonder if anyone there has ever see him at the high post, where he can use his incomparable passing skills and reliable shooting touch. He’s no Draymond Green on defense, but in a role where he can showcase all he can do, he can out-Draymond on offense.

But I’m seeing no imagination there. A lot of the same old isolations and afterward, a lot of people urging LeBron to come out and try to score 50 in the next game.

That could actually work for a game or two, if the Cavs get lucky, but it’s not a seven-game solution.

My advice to Cleveland is go to school on the video from the first two games – learn from the Warriors and the way they play.

If it’s not already too late.






Tyronn Lue’s Game 2 plan: Play faster, move ball better, but no major changes

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Tyronn Lue’s Game 2 plan: Play faster, move ball better, but no major changes

Cleveland’s lineups in Game 1 where LeBron JamesKevin Love, orChanning Frye were the center were -13 on the night. Those lineups struggled to score and had a hard time getting consistent stops against the ball movement of the Warriors.

So what is Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue changing up for Game 2?

“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.”

That was the theme of the day for the Cavaliers — they think their defense did a good enough job holding the Splash Brothers and Warriors in general in check, they just need to knock down their shots. And get better ones by playing faster and moving the ball more.

“I just told LeBron I need him to play faster,” Lue said. “I need him to pick up the pace for us offensively, getting the ball out and just beginning to play faster….