CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – It has been said for the entirety of the NBA Finals thus far: The Golden State Warriors are now a different team.
After two losses in the Finals, the Cavaliers will not be.
Despite being outscored by a total of 41 points in Games 1 and 2, Cavaliers Head Coach Tyronn Lue maintained that his team will not overhaul their rotations or approach to compensate for what their opponents have become.
With the Western Conference Champions averaging 122.5 points through two contests, some had floated the idea of the Cavaliers trying to slow own the game, but LeBron James was adamant that nothing would change in that regard.
“That’s not our game. We don’t play slowdown basketball,” James said. “We play at our pace. We play our game. We got to this point playing our way. We have won a lot of games playing the way we play, so we’re not going to change.”
Lue cited the three-pointer as the main reason for why his team wants to be attack-heavy, but noted a caveat in the approach.
“You saw early in the first half when LeBron’s able to attack and get downhill with the floor open, that’s when we’re at our best, if they help, kicking it out for threes,” the coach said. “So we want to play with pace, but to play with pace you got to get stops.”
The numbers do not indicate that pace is what moves the Eastern Conference Champions.
Cavaliers players were 29th in the NBA in average speed during the regular season at 4.03 mph, slightly ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers at 4.02. Though the “flip the switch” approach hadn’t kicked in at that point, the Cavs have been even slower in the post-season at 3.97 mph, 12th of the 16 teams to qualify.
They were 16th in possessions per game during the regular season at 98.38, but are now 7th in the post-season at 98.71.
Reports had surfaced in the time between the end of Sunday’s Game 2 and availability on Tuesday that Lue was considering changes to his game plan, namely a swap of JR Smith and Iman Shumpert in the starting lineup.
On Tuesday, Lue said that would not be the case, but that Shumpert would remain on Kevin Durant defensively.
“It’s going to be tough to guard (Durant) one-on-one anyway, so having LeBron off the ball where he’s able to get some steals and roam a little bit and play free safety, it was good for us,” Lue said.
Even with another blowout loss in Game 2, James noted that there were aspects of their game defensively that they would need to maintain going forward.
Ultimately, the team still seems to be viewing their downfalls as correctable. Limiting mistakes was the main theme of what must change, but the three-time champion says physicality will need to be rolled over.
“I thought we were much more physical, we had bodies on bodies and we have to do that against those guys, because if we let them run free, then they are even that more dangerous,” he said.
Even the preparation is not set to change before Game 3, in some ways. The teams have seen each other now four times since Durant made his trek west, and there are parts of the Warriors’ game that nobody can mimic.
“As much as you want to work on going through their plays and their spits and their actions, there’s nothing that can imitate Kevin Durant popping behind the three-pointer and shooting a tough shot that you’ve contested or Steph (Curry) coming off a pin-down and guys setting good screens,” point guard Kyrie Irving said. “So we use Game 1 and 2.
“We got our asses kicked, and now we are here at Game 3 and we have a challenge in front of us.”