Prior to the start of the NBA Finals, Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue mentioned that he wanted the Cavs to push the pace, something that he has wanted his team to do since becoming head coach midway through the season. While many may argue that the Cavs should slow down the speed of the game against a team like the Golden State Warriors, Lue wants the Wine and Gold to continue to run in transition in the NBA Finals. After a Game 1 loss that saw the Cavs struggle on the offensive side of the ball for the majority of the game, Lue drove that point home to his best player, LeBron James, per cleveland.com's Joe Vardon.
"I just told LeBron I need him to play faster. I need him to pick up the pace for us offensively, getting the ball out and just beginning to play faster."
While their pace in the first game of the series was faster than their previous 14 games in the 2016 postseason (94.8 possessions per 48 minutes compared to 91.1), Lue realizes that with how well the Warriors played defensively Thursday night, his team needs to get easy buckets in transition. If the Cavaliers are reliant on scoring a majority of their points in their half-court offense, they may struggle mightily, just like during Game 1.
Not only will running in transition and having a faster pace create easier baskets, but it will also create mismatches if Cleveland then decides to slow it down a little. Lue admitted that they have to take advantage of those mismatches every opportunity they get.
"When you're switching 1 through 5 (as the Warriors are on defense), it makes you stagnant. It makes you play one-on-one. So the best thing you can do is try to get the matchup you want and try to (exploit) it."
If the Cavaliers decide to start their offense in the half-court after having a quicker pace but not coming away with a basketball, they realize that they can't afford to run as much isolation, one-on-one as they did in Game 1's loss Thursday night, especially with James and Kyrie Irving having the ball in their hands. Why can't they do that, you ask? Their offense was abysmal in those situations.
A little isolation ball is good, but there is a fine line between a reasonable amount and too much, something that the Cavs will most likely learn after watching film all weekend and getting prepared for the game Sunday night. Lue wants his team to isolate when there is a mismatch, but they have to make the Warriors pay for the mismatch as well.
Following hearing what Lue said, James took charge and admitted that they have to push the tempo and cannot play too much one-on-one, isolation basketball if they want to upset to Warriors.
On Saturday, Warriors guard Klay Thompson responded to Cavs comments about wanting to push the pace, stating that it would work into Golden State's favor if they do so, per cleveland.com's Chris Haynes.
"If they want to pick up the pace, that's great. I think we're the best transition team in the league. So, I think it would be perfect for us ... Last year, I think they had success against us when they slowed the game down. But they have more bodies this year. So, you never know. It might work. But at the same time, I think it could play into our hands. So we'll see."
While the bench must improve in Game 2 (and beyond), James' and Lue's comments from Friday also have to come to fruition if the Cavs want any shot of bringing a title back to Cleveland in the next couple weeks. If they make these adjustments, they have a shot of beating Golden State in Game 2 and returning to Cleveland with the series tied at one. As everyone knows, the Cavaliers don't have home court advantage and the only way to win the series is to take one on Golden State's court. The earlier the Cavaliers can do that, the better. Game 2 isn't technically a must-win, but if the Cavaliers do drop to 0-2 in the series it makes almost every game thereafter the most dire must-win.