The Cleveland Cavaliers completed a historical comeback against the Golden State Warriors with a midseason coaching change. Tyronn Lue was exceptional through the course of the finals. After the Cavs went down three games to one in this series he said “If you don’t think we can win, don’t get on the plane” in his post game press conference. Lue did a phenomenal job manipulating lineups, using his timeouts to stop runs and calling the right plays for the right players after those timeouts (ATOs).
After the Cavs surprisingly released their coach David Blatt despite having the best record in the Eastern Conference, they turned to Lue. The Cavs would finish the last 41 games 27-14 and the top record in the East.
Going into the finals Channing Frye was averaging 15.7 minutes a game and Matthew Dellavedova was getting 14 minutes. Both players were important pieces to the Cavs run to the finals. Frye was shooting 57.4% from 3 and Dellavedova was averaging 3.8. Over the course of the finals their production declined and so did their minutes. Lue found a replacement for some of those minutes in Richard Jefferson who went from 15.2 minutes a game in the previous series to 25 in the finals. An important part of coaching is being able to move pieces around in the lineup to get the best players on floor depending on the matchups.
Lue was masterful in how he used his timeouts in the second half of game 7. Every time the Warriors would go on a tiny run he would use one of his timeouts to slow the game down and call a play. In the clip below is an ATO he ran after the Warriors went on a 5-0 run midway through the third quarter. Lue setup a double ball screen to get Steph Curry to switch onto LeBron James, and posted him up. As the Warriors came to help, James found Love right in front of the basket. This timeout not only stopped the Warriors and started the Cavs own 11-0 run.
When the Warriors went on another 8-2 run towards the end of the third quarter, Lue called a timeout to slow the pace down and settle down the Cavs. This time he called a ball screen between Irving and James to get a switch. The Warriors cooperated and James posted up on Shaun Livingston. James would hit a turnaround jumper to put a halt the run.
Coming out of a timeout with 1:07 left and the game is tied, Lue called on Irving to make a play. The Cavs ran a pick and roll to get Curry to switch onto him, this had been their favorite matchup. Irving pulled the NBA version of the triple deke and hit what turned out to be the game winning three. Lue continually called plays to get this match up and hurt it the Warriors all series long.
In the second half of game seven, Lue drew up plays and called the right guys to manufacture 13 points out of timeouts. He used his timeouts wisely to stop small runs to stop them from becoming big runs. He had the right combination of players on the court and benched guys who weren’t producing. Most importantly, Lue was consistent all series long with his messages, “If you don’t think we can win, don’t get on the plane”. Lue never wavered and Cleveland has its first championship in 52 years.