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After weeks of speculation, having finally revealed his starting lineup for the playoffs, it appears that unit could end up lasting all of one game for Tyronn Lue.
The Cavaliers coach started LeBron James, Kevin Love and Jeff Green in the frontcourt for Game 1 against Indiana on Sunday, along with George Hill and Rodney Hood in the backcourt.
That group did not start a single game during the regular season and it showed in the first quarter as the Pacers raced to a 33-14 lead after the first 12 minutes and were never headed en route to a 98-80 win.
Lue said after a film session and walk through Monday he is considering lineup changes, especially after Green shot 0-for-7 in Game 1 and Cleveland hoisted more bricks than found at your average construction site in shooting 8-of-34 from the 3-point line and produced more turnovers (17) than found at your local bakery.
“We’re looking at it but I’m not going to talk about it,” Lue said.
J.R. Smith was one of the few bright spots for Cleveland in Game 1, producing 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting in 29 minutes off the bench. Tristan Thompson played only the final couple of minutes in garbage time.
While both struggled through their worst regular seasons of their respective careers this season, they were starters on the last three Cavalier teams that won the Eastern Conference and reached the NBA Finals, winning the title in 2016.
They, along with James and Love, are the only four players on the current roster who were part of that championship team, all as starters. Could Lue revert back to using Smith and Thompson as starters for Game 2, set for Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena?
Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson and rookie Cedi Osman played in their first playoff game Sunday, while Hood, who played 11 games in the postseason a year ago with the Utah Jazz, made his first postseason start.
If nothing else, Lue realizes Smith and Thompson won’t be bothered by the bright lights of the playoffs or shrink when crunch time arrives.
“We’ve been talking about it as a staff,” Lue said. “I just know those guys have been through everything with us the last four years and we won a championship, went to three Finals.
“Tristan and J.R. played a big part of that. We understand that and trust me, we know that.”
Kyle Korver played only four first-quarter minutes in Game 1, missing the three shots he took, and was not present for Monday’s session because of illness. Hill, who suffered a back injury when hit by an illegal screen by Indiana’s Trevor Booker, took part in Monday’s wall through but was “stiff,” according to Lue.
Lue said he also had talks with James and Love on Monday.
James, who finished with a triple-double (24 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists), did not take a shot until almost 11 minutes had been burned off the first-quarter clock.
When he finally did attempt a shot, Cleveland found itself in an 18-point hole.
“He has to be aggressive and set the tone early,” Lue said. “Especially for these new guys, bringing these guys along. He understood that but once again, he’s always a guy trying to get his teammates off early, get them guys going, then try to feel the game out. But be ready to set a tone.”
Love, who finished with nine points and game-high 17 rebounds, took only eight shots, six of which were 3-pointers. The 6-foot-10 Love, even while guarded by 6-8 Thaddeus Young, never established anything on the clock, nor did Lue and his staff put him there.
“He’s got to demand the ball in the post,” Lue said. “He said he has to be more aggressive. They’re trying to be physical with him on his post-ups but he’s seeing that a lot of times before.”
Lue told the press after Game 1 he has an idea of what his best lineup is, but refused to elaborate. Monday, he said he “couldn’t get to it,” referring to said lineup, which seems to indicate in cold include Korver.
However, the 37-year-old has been battling a bruise on top of his right foot and now, apparently, illness as well.
Hood, who actually shot well (4 of 8) when he did shoot in Game 1, finishing with nine points in 21 minutes, still did not show assertiveness nor aggressiveness in making his first start in the playoffs.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) April 16, 2018
“We’ll play a lot better I know,” Hood said. “We can’t play any worse than we did. We’ve just got to take care of the ball, get good shots. I think defensively we did a solid job, but I think offensively we can’t give them any ammo to come at us.”