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Coaches can make adjustments, switch the starting lineup, alter substitution patterns and tinker with some different combinations.
What they can’t do, however, especially at the NBA level, is teach energy, effort, assertiveness, aggressiveness and physicality.
All of which falls on the shoulders of players.
After the Indiana Pacers came into Quicken Loans Arena and all but planted a flag at the center circle en route to a 98-80 upset of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 on Sunday, the Cavaliers chose to look at themselves more so than the Pacers.
“I don’t think there’s too many adjustments we can make, we just have to play harder to start the game off,” J.R. Smith, one of the few Cavs who showed signs of all of the above-mentioned qualities in posting 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting in 29 minutes, said. “They just played more physical than we did and it showed, it definitely showed. If we could bottle that third quarter up and part of that fourth, the way we played with intensity, diving on the floor, guarding people, contesting every shot, making the extra pass, we’ll be good.”
Smith was referring to the 9-1 run the Cavaliers went on early the second half, which they entered on the short end of a 55-38 score. However, after a timeout by coach Nate McMillan, the Pacers responded with a 6-0 run and Cleveland could never close the gap.
“I think we need to change our mindset,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. “They were more physical. They were more aggressive.
“Usually in playoffs, those teams win.”
That certainly was the case in Game 1. Game 2 will be played Wednesday at The Q.
“They were more aggressive,” LeBron James, who took only 17 shots while posting s triple-double with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists, said. “They just played inspired basketball.”
Victor Oladipo, one of the driving forces in Indiana taking three of the four regular-season matchups against Cleveland, said it was by design.
“We’ve been playing like this all year. Been playing hard on both ends all year, said Oladipo, who added six rebounds, four assists, four steals and a blocked shot in 37 minutes, shooting 11 of 19, including 6-of-9 from deep. “It just hasn’t been magnified. So it’s the playoffs now, we’ve been doing this all year.
“Now everybody sees, so it’s like, it’s kind of shocking to everybody, I guess you could say.”
McMillan was proud of his team, which won 49 games in the regular-season, just one less than the three-time defending Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers.
“We talk about being calm, clear, connected every single night,” he said. “In the situation like this where going into the postseason basketball, you’re going up against Cleveland, LeBron and all the things that he has done, it’s going to be emotional.
“You’re on their home court and you’re going to have to show that confidence and you’re going to have to be clear about what you need to do and be connected out there. They’ve done that.”