CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Cleveland Cavaliers Head Coach Tyronn Lue said prior to Monday’s rematch with the Golden State Warriors that he believed his team was still the best team in the Eastern Conference.
That may be still be the case, but only if the games were reduced to 36 minutes.
Lue recanted his statement moments later, saying the Cavaliers are not currently the best team in the East, but that they will be. Then his team proceeded to play right with the undisputed best team in the league.
For about 39 minutes.
The wine and gold fell apart down the stretch in their attempt to steal a home win against their bitter rivals, shooting 6-of-23 in the 4th quarter.
Following Isaiah Thomas’s deep jumper that tied the game at 93, the first bucket of the 4th, the Cavaliers did not score again for four minutes, six seconds. The registered just two field goals and a free throw in the following four minutes, forty.
All parties in the home locker room chalked their sudden offensive downturn to simply not converting the shots they took, arguing that their shots we of the same quality.
Thomas, still working through getting his conditioning, turned in an 8-for-21 night in a season-high 32 minutes. He said the margin of error was simply too small to hit such a rough patch late.
“In that situation when we’re not scoring, we’ve got to execute a little better,” Thomas said. “I think that’s when it kind of opened up a little bit and they went on a 6-0, 8-0 run. It’s tough to beat a team when they have and eight- or ten-point lead and they’re really good like they are.”
This is not to say there were not continued issues through the entire 48 minutes, surrendering 13 offensive rebounds (3 in the 4th) and 20 (4) fast break points.
Kyle Korver is one of the few shooters on earth that could hold their own against the Golden State triumvirate of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant. Yet when the former matches up with the latter, he seems to disappear, at least with the Cavaliers.
Over 97 minutes through five NBA Finals games in 2017, Korver posted a .500 eFG% and hoisted just 3.2 3-point field goals per night. The marksman has not attempted less than five triples per game in a season since 2011-12.
It was more of the same in the first matchup of 2018, as Korver was just 1-3 from the field, all from deep, in just shy of 21 minutes.
Lue attributed Korver’s relative ineffectiveness to Steve Kerr’s defensive scheme.
“They do a good job of switching out, wherever he’s coming out from, whether it’s a big guy or a small guy,” Lue said. “So they kind of take away the movement of the second unit because they switch out and now you’re staggered, playing one-on-one.”
Though just because he is not lifting shots does not mean Korver is not effective. Despite being almost 37-years-old, he maintains the highest average speed (4.48 mph) of any rotation player, serving at least as a decoy who must be tended to.
“He comes and plays exactly how we want him to play,” LeBron James said. “It’s not always about him making shots. He does exactly what we tell him to do, he don’t make mistakes.”
If all accounts of players and coaches hold up, Korver’s lack of shot attempts was not much of an issue. His presence aided in the Cavaliers’ 62-point night in the paint, going 31-for-47, though they converted a measly 7-of-28 night from distance.