INDEPENDENCE (92.3 The Fan) – Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt is learning a harsh truth during his first NBA season and playoff run – criticism – fair or not – comes with the territory.
Especially if you coach LeBron James.
Blatt is under fire for a pair of blunders in the closing seconds of Sunday’s 86-84 win at Chicago that tied the Eastern Conference semifinal series at 2. First inexplicably forgetting the team was out of timeouts yet trying to call one before assistant Tyronn Lue stopped him and secondly for failing to draw up a play during a timeout for James with 1.5 seconds left before the 4-time NBA MVP stepped in and called for the ball.
“He’s catching heat because he’s coaching me,” James said. “Whoever is associated with me catches heat. Kevin Love got no heat the first six or seven years he was in this league, but he teamed with me and he gets heat. Is that the truth? Absolutely.
“When you are associated with me you get a little heat.”
James has been down this road before with previous head coaches – most notably Erik Spoelstra in Miami.
Blatt didn’t duck the criticism on Monday – especially for trying to call timeout when he didn’t have one. In fact, he felt fortunate the officials didn’t notice him signaling for one, which could have cost the Cavs the game.
“A near-mistake was made and I owned up to it and I own it,” Blatt said. “A basketball coach makes 150 to 200 critical decisions during the course of a game, something that I think is paralleled only by a fighter pilot. If you do it for 27 years, you’re going to blow one or two. And I blew one. Fortunately it didn’t cost us.”
As for the final play he drew up that James scrapped, Blatt felt the heat he’s received over his best player wanting the basketball in the closing seconds was unwarranted.
“That’s just not fair,” Blatt said. “Sometimes you go with your player’s feeling because you believe in what he can do. That at the end of the day was my decision to go with what he felt. That’s just not fair.”
Blatt originally wanted James to inbound the ball to 1 of 2 targets – he did not specify who they were – because they burned their last 2 timeouts trying to inbound the ball at mid-court moments earlier that saw James whistled for an offensive foul which set up the tying score for Chicago.
“He’s our biggest and best passer,” Blatt said. “He’s a guy who can make the right pass in that situation.”
Fortunately for the Cavs and Blatt, he listened to James. LeBron took the inbounds pass from Matthew Dellavedova, turned his body and buried a 21-foot jumper from the corner over the outstretched arms of Jimmy Butler to win it as time expired.
Somehow, someway James finished the game despite turning his left ankle badly in the third quarter Sunday. James said although he doesn’t know how he finished Game 4, he will play Tuesday night in Game 5.