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It probably won’t be a perfect 10, but then again, what is?
However, as far as playoff rotations go, that’s what Tyronn Lue has in mind.
The Cleveland Cavaliers coach told reporters Thursday that he plans on going 10 deep for the first-round series against the Indiana Pacers, which tips off Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena.
He said his decisions are based on the matchups along with “who’s been playing the best.”
“You usually go nine,” Lue said, describing a typical playoff rotation. “I think we’ve been nine in the past, but I think it’s going to be important to go 10 for us.”
So, who will start against the Pacers in Game 1 and who will be part of the rotation?
“I’m not telling you,” Lue said. “Is that fair?”
Actually, there is more known about the guys Lue plans on using as opposed to what is not known.
LeBron James, Kevin Love, George Hill and Jeff Green will start. The starting shooting guard will be either Rodney Hood or Kyle Korver. Hood (sore left Achilles) and Korver (bruised right foot) have both been battling minor injuries, though Hood would appear to be more likely to start, given the strength of the Pacers is their backcourt, namely All-Star Victor Oladipo and Darren Collison.
The Cleveland bench will consist of either Hood or Korver, Jordan Clarkson, J.R. Smith, Jose Calderon and either Larry Nance Jr. or Tristan Thompson. Indications are, given all that has happened of late — Nance being basically a spectator for the meaningless regular-season finale against New York while Thompson played most of the second half — Thompson, who was excused from the team video session and meeting Thursday because of the birth of his daughter.
The 36-year-old Calderon earned his spot with his innate ability to simply make the team better. While Cleveland used seven different point guards during a roller coaster regular season, when Calderon started, the Cavaliers went 23-9.
“I like Clarkson being on the floor with a point guard, so that makes us play 10,” Lue said. “We just want to make sure that we have a point guard on the floor with him, knowing that Cory Joseph picks up full court and tries to disrupt the point guard on the opposing team. So, it’s very important that we try to keep a point guard on the floor with him at all times.”
Lue said Korver is “getting better.”
“That’s what (team trainer) Steve (Spiro) told me today,” he continued. “He’s getting better. I’m not sure if he’s 100 percent yet, but he’s getting better. And that’s all your can ask for.”
As for Hood, “he’s good to go,” Lue said.
Hood, who played in 11 playoff games last season while with the Utah Jazz, Nance and Clarkson are all 25 and about to enter their first postseason as Cavaliers.
“I know he played last year, but him and Larry and Jordan, just the most important thing I think is competing and playing hard,” Lue said. “I think you get deflections, get a steal, get an easy basket. The easiest way to play your first time in the playoffs is just playing hard. I think the fans appreciate that, guys on the floor, taking charges, that’s what gets you motivated. That’s what gets the crowd motivated and it helps you ease into the game better.
“I think you come in, thinking about offense or missing shots, that’s the wrong attitude to have for your first time in the playoffs,” he continued. “I think it’s about playing hard, competing, loose balls, diving on the floor, taking charges, that’s how you get yourself going.”
Defense is where the Cavaliers are their weakest, ranking 29th out of 30 teams during the regular season. Since The New 4 of Hill, Hood, Clarkson and Nance were acquired Feb. 8, that rating improved to 19th, but defense, especially in the backcourt, was a fly in the Cavs’ ointment all season long.
That does not bode well with Oladipo (23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists per game) and Collison coming to town Sunday as the Pacers’ starting backcourt. Joseph comes off the bench to form an effective triumvirate in the backcourt.
Collison was a Cavs killer in the four regular-season games between the two teams, scoring 18 points per, while shooting a spectacular 75 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
“I think in the playoffs we have to take away what the team does best,” Lue said. “That’s what we thrive on doing here and trying to take away what a team does best and try to make them do something different that they’re not used to doing.”
Hill could not hold back a smile at the thought of entering the postseason as a teammate of James, who while he was with the Miami Heat, eliminated Hill and his Pacers teammates three consecutive seasons in the playoffs.
“LeBron, he says like it is,” Hill shared. “He says, ‘Regular season is over with, we’ve got to continue to get better as a team, take these next couple days to clear your mind, focus on this Pacers team that can put up points and who has beaten us so far a lot this year.’ He said, ‘We’ve got to put our thinking caps on and get ready to play some good postseason basketball.'”