CLEVELAND — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is digging in his heels on his approach to coaching his team despite trailing the Golden State Warriors 0-2 heading into Wednesday’s Game 3.
Lue announced Tuesday that he will keep J.R. Smith as his starting shooting guard, even though Smith combined for just three points on 1-for-6 shooting, two rebounds and zero assists, steals and blocks in Games 1 and 2.
A Cavs source told ESPN following Game 2 that the team would consider starting Iman Shumpert over Smith after Shumpert had some success guarding Kevin Durant and played aggressively on offense. Lue, however, is sticking with Smith, who started 35 of the 41 games in which he played this season.
Shumpert, who required an IV after Game 2, appeared Tuesday to have recovered from the cramps that plagued him Sunday. He and Smith engaged in a spirited game of 1-on-1 during the portion of the practice that was open to the media and Shumpert could be heard encouraging Smith to bring the same mindset he displayed in practice to the rest of the series.
Lue also remained steadfast in the Cavs playing with a frenetic pace, even though the Warriors have outscored them 245-204 in the series so far. The Cavs were average, at best, in terms of pace during the regular season, ranking 16th in the league.
“I think taking good shots when we’re playing with pace and not turning the basketball over, letting them get out in transition,” Lue said. “So, that’s our game. We’re not going to change our game because of who we’re playing. And I’m confident that we can play that way, and we did it last year. A lot of people said we couldn’t. But that’s our game. That’s who we are. And we’re not going to change just pause we’re playing Golden State.”
The Cavs are playing at a quicker pace than LeBron James has ever played before. James has played with an average pace of 90.6 possessions per game in his 14-year career, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In the Finals, the Cavs are averaging 105.5 possessions per game so far.
In the first quarter of Game 2, the Cavs played with the fastest pace of any quarter of the 1,275 games James has played — regular season or postesason. Despite the extra possessions, Cleveland trailed 40-34 heading into the second. The quickened pace was not sustainable in Game 2, as the Cavs had 59 possessions in the first half and 49 possessions in the second half.
James rejected a reporter’s call for more of a halfcourt-oriented game from the Cavs on Wednesday.
“That’s not our game. We don’t play slowdown basketball,” James said. “We play at our pace. We play our game. We got to this point playing our way. We have won a lot of games playing the way we play, so we’re not going to change.”
Lue acknowledged one adjustment, saying that starting center Tristan Thompson could continue to play reduced minutes.
“It’s not anything Tristan isn’t doing,” Lue said. “I just think that against this team you have to score the basketball.”
If it’s not Thompson, the Cavs will likely go more to Channing Frye, who was 1-for-5 for two points in Game 2. He is not the only role player struggling. Smith, of course, has yet to make an impact, and Deron Williams is 0-for-9 in the Finals so far.
“We have done a great job of getting everyone involved and making sure that everyone feels comfortable, but now we need everything and everybody,” Kyrie Irving said. “And I know they know how important they are. And it’s our job, my job to exude as much confidence as I can in them in order to get the very best, and I will do that.”