When Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue took over after the firing of David Blatt on January 24, one of the things he heavily emphasized was that he wanted the Cavs to play quicker and have a faster pace. In 41 regular season games, that pace progressively got better and was part of the reason why Cleveland went 27-14 under Lue during the regular season to secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
In the playoffs — a postseason that the Cavs have won 12 of their 14 games so far — Lue's team seems to be doing everything right, whether it's on offense or defense. While many argued that the wine and gold should slow the pace down against the Golden State Warriors, the head coach admitted on Wednesday that he wants the Cavaliers to continue to run and have a fast pace, per Cleveland.com's Chris Haynes.
"We just have to play our game. We're not going to slow the ball down and be at ease. We're going to push the pace, try to get easy baskets early in transition but make sure we're taking good shots."
The Cavs' offensive efficiency should not be overlooked, but good shots are key. Lue doesn't want his team to just run in transition and jack up jumpers; he wants them to run, get easy shots in transition whether it's with a layup or LeBron James (or whoever else) dishing it off to an open shooter. When reporters at the press conference didn't believe that he even said that considering the Cavaliers are going against the offensive powerhouse Warriors, Lue reiterated his stance following the presser.
"We want to push the pace! You know what I'm saying. Put that on record. Push the pace. You think I'm going to walk it down every time?"
But why would the Cavs want to push the ball on offense and therefore allow the Warriors to have more chances to score on their end of the floor? Because that's what James and company are used to. Over the last few months, they have been used to and are now committed to, no matter who the opponent is, and Lue doesn't want to mess that consistency up one bit. They know that if they push the pace, they can potentially beat the Warriors at their own game, along with possibility of getting easy buckets in transition, as Kyrie Irving pointed out.
"That's our game. Going in having confidence in the people we have and that pace that we play at and we play best when we play fast."
So far in the 2016 playoffs, Golden State (110.9 points per game) and Cleveland (106.9) average the most points per contest. That's not surprising with how fast the two teams want to play. The Finals could be a high-scoring affair because of this. For what it's worth, so far in the 2016 playoffs, the Cavs have shot better than the Warriors both from the field (47.5 percent to 46.4 percent) and from long distance (43.4 percent to 40.3 percent). So, if the numbers are true, the more shots the better for the wine and gold, right?
If by chance, you are worried that the Cavs won't have enough bodies to keep up with the Warriors along with trying to run and create a fast pace themselves, nine Cleveland players have averaged at least 14 minutes per game so far this postseason, which gives Lue the ability to give plenty of players significant minutes and keep players fresh as well, unlike in the 2015 Finals.
- LeBron James: 37.8 minutes
- Kyrie Irving: 35.8 minutes
- J.R. Smith: 33.5 minutes
- Kevin Love: 32.5 minutes
- Tristan Thompson: 28.3 minutes
- Iman Shumpert: 17.1 minutes
- Channing Frye: 15.7 minutes
- Richard Jefferson: 15.2 minutes
- Matthew Dellavedova: 14 minutes
Lue wants the Cavs to run and have a fast pace. If that happens, the 2016 NBA Finals will be a high-scoring affair and could be for the record books. Obviously, that is most fans' favorite type of basketball to watch. But, for it to truly be Cleveland's favorite, the Cavaliers will bring a championship back to The Land. Lue and his team want to run, the next two (or so) weeks will prove if executing that type of play will prove costly or be a brilliant move for the Cavaliers.