Fluid rotation remains a puzzle for Cavaliers

Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers have lost both home games since the Feb. 8 trades.

Hopefully, Tyronn Lue isn’t afraid of sharp objects. Otherwise, he’d most likely have all five fingers on both hands bandaged.

Lue has been akin to a guy attempting to put together a jigsaw puzzle with pieces that don’t quite fit and cutting them with scissors in an attempt to do so with his lineups and rotations all season long.

The 121-104 win against visiting Detroit on Sunday night at Quicken Loans Arena was yet another case in point.

Despite winning back-to-back games for the first time in 42 days, Lue was once again forced to piece-meal his way through the game.

He played 10 guys at least 20 minutes against the Pistons, which is fine. It produced the desired result, thanks mostly to a 31-17 fourth-quarter performance.

Lue played LeBron James at point guard in the fourth quarter, teaming him with Kyle Korver, Channing Frye, Jeff Green and Jae Crowder for most of the final period.

In doing so, however, Isaiah Thomas, who spurred an 11-2 run to close the third quarter to give the Cavaliers a 90-87 advantage, Tristan Thompson and Derrick Rose didn’t play in the fourth quarter.

Thompson was once again active as a member of the starting lineup, producing nine points and four rebounds in 20 minutes. Rose, on the other hand, didn’t see the floor at all in the second half after nine ineffective, scoreless minutes in the first half.

Complicating matters even more, Dwyane Wade, who missed his second game in a row being away from the team after the death of longtime agent and father figure Henry Thomas, is expected to return to the Cavaliers for the rematch with the Pistons on Tuesday night in Detroit.

That means, Lue will be tasked with finding not only effective combinations, but also enough minutes and massage egos, for 11 guys into a 10-man rotation — a number, Lue has admitted in the past, he prefers to be nine.

“It’s tough like you said playing 11 guys,” Lue said. “When you’re not going to play a guy you just have to tell them and talk to them and communicate that.

“We have 13, 14 guys that should play, actually. Have to have that communication and it’s going to be different games for different guys. Just have to see how it is.”

Sunday was yet another chapter in the cut-and-piece act Lue has done pretty much all season, though most of it has been while guys such as Thomas, Thompson, Iman Shumpert (who did not play Sunday night) and even Rose were out because of injuries.

When Thomas returned to the floor after a seven-month layoff, that put Jose Calderon, the starting point guard during the majority of the 18-wins-in-19-game stretch (including a 13-game winning streak) the Cavaliers rolled to, back to the bench.

When Thompson came back after missing six weeks because of a strained calf, that pushed Frye, who have been extremely effective playing with the second unit, out of the rotation.

Frye played 21 minutes, including nine in the fourth quarter, Sunday night, the first time he’s played 20 minutes or more since playing 25 against the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 4.

“I had fun because I wasn’t sitting the bench,” Frye said, tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Korver has played more fourth-quarter minutes (421) than any Cavalier this season and leads the league with 52 fourth-quarter 3-pointers. However, his minutes playing with James have decreased this month, as not surprisingly, has his production.

The veteran sharpshooter appeared to be on his way to another rough night against the Pistons, shooting just 1-of-6, including 1-of-5 from 3.

However, he was a perfect 3-of-3 from deep in the decisive fourth quarter against Detroit.

“It was fun,” Korver said, echoing Frye. “(It) felt like it had been a while since I had been out there when it matters. So, it felt good and I’m glad we got the win.

“I think Ty, what he’s been doing, he’s trying to get guys in a rhythm,” Korver continued. “He’s in a tough spot. He’s trying to find, trying to get guys in rhythm, but he’s also trying to feel the game. He sees someone gets hot, he rides them. He usually does that.”

In the case of Thomas, though, he was definitely a “hot hand” with his fine play in the waning moments of the third quarter, putting him at 14 points and seven assists through the first 36 minutes, posting 10 of his points in the quarter.

However, he, nor Thompson, played in the fourth quarter.

“IT’s finding his rhythm, different lineups are finding their rhythm, and that’s what the regular season is for, is for us to figure out what’s best,” Korver said. “But you’ve got to have patience with it and, so, but like I said, tonight that kind of second unit with ‘Bron there was kind of rolling in the fourth quarter and our defense was great.

“We gave up 17 in the fourth quarter which, whoa, good job Cavs.”

Thomas, according to ESPN Stats & Info, had 28 go-ahead made field goals in the fourth quarter or overtime last season with the Celtics.

Asked if he changed his offensive mindset Sunday night with his seven assists after he was informed at practice Saturday that some teammates were not pleased with his shot selection, Thomas didn’t hesitate.

“Yeah, I changed it because they was mad at my shot selection,” Thomas said sarcastically. “No, I just made the right play. That’s all I did. I tried to get in the paint, be aggressive. Guys made shots, and that’s just how I play. So, I mean, if there are two guys on me, I just try to find the open guy every time, and nine times out of 10, I try to make the right play, whether that’s getting a ball to a teammate or me scoring, and guys knocked down shots, so they helped me out today.

“What do you want me to say?” Thomas added. “I’m just glad we won.”

1 Comment on "Fluid rotation remains a puzzle for Cavaliers"

  1. IT hates it here – please cut the cancer and get him out by the trade deadline.

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