David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Tyronn Lue has the Cavaliers one win away from achieving an entire city's utlimate goal

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving have played a substantial role in the Cleveland Cavaliers forcing Game 7, but head coach Tyronn Lue's efforts on the sidelines should not be overlooked.

Tyronn Lue stepped down from the podium and immediately made his way back toward the Cleveland Cavaliers' locker room. His team just completed their second consecutive NBA Finals victory, a wire-to-wire 115-101 victory over the Golden State Warriors, forcing a Game 7 that would give the city of Cleveland their first chance at a championship in 19 years. As Lue strutted back, an ear-to-ear grin on his 39-year-old mug, the first-year head coach handed out fist bumps by the boat loads. Cavs employees, fans still milling around in the bowels of the arena, friends and family of players and coaches, all of them on the receiving end of a Lue rock as the coach repeatedly said "one more, one more." When Lue reached the mid-way point, he realized that next would-be recipient of a bump was to be assistant coach Phil Handy, Lue stopped, smiled, and skipped right past him as the two men laughed at the omission.

It was at that moment when Steve Kerr, head coach of the Warriors crossed through the hallway on the way to the podium to give his address as the coach on the losing end of an emotional and hard-fought contest. Stoic and stern, Kerr quickly tucked his right shoulder as to squeeze through the crowd that had gathered outside of the family lounge just outside of the locker room, turning into Barry Sanders if only for a quick second as to not have to be a bystander for what was unfolding before him. Cleveland’s win in Game 6, on paper, did nothing more than keep alive its hopes of becoming the first team ever to rebound from a 1-3 deficit to win The NBA Finals. History is undoubtedly against Lue and the Cavs, but if anyone would know about records and odds and the way they can be demolished at the drop of a hat, it's Kerr whose team had to fight back from being down 3-1 just to make it back to the NBA's largest stage.

http://www.scout.com/cleveland-sports/story/1679369-cavs-vs-warriors-game-6-behind-the-box-scoreWith Lue's game plan in place, the Cavs took command right from the start by outscoring Golden State 31-11 in the first quarter thanks to a barrage of pick-and-roll sets that found LeBron James and Kyrie Irving once again leading the charge, this time with forward Tristan Thompson joining into the fray. Lue's scheme was unveiled immediately as the Cavs forced the Warriors to switch two-time MVP Steph Curry on to the defensive assignment of guarding four-time MVP in James, and the result was palpable. Golden State’s 11 points (5-22 FGA) marked the fewest ever in a first quarter in post-shot clock NBA Finals history and it was Curry would draw two quick fouls that would eventually lead to the first ejection of his career.

"I just thought we stuck with our game plan, being aggressive and physical defensively, and I thought being aggressive offensively attacking," said Lue postgame. "I thought in the second quarter we got away from it. We kind of slowed the ball down in the second quarter, which made us stagnant and made us get some shot clock violations, getting late to the shot clock. But for the most part I thought we did a great job, just continued to attack in transition, in the half court, and make them guard us."

Here's a first-year head coach, embroiled in the cavalcade of scrutiny that comes with coaching LeBron James, but with the added ferocity of being named head coach in the middle of the season upon the firing of David Blatt. Curry would say that the Cavaliers won Game 6 in the first quarter where Lue's Cavaliers made one of the league's best defenses look mediocre at best, confused and out of place at worst. But it isn't just the numbers that are impressive as much as the way Lue has completely laughed in the face of convention. I

In the Cavs' first series against Detroit, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy shunned the idea that Lue had made a tactical, series-tilting decision when he decided to play LeBron James alongside the second unit. In the second round, it was Mike Budenholzer, winner of the Eastern Conference just a season ago, who saw his Atlanta Hawks fall victim to one of the most dominant shooting displays in the history of the NBA. In the Eastern Conference Finals, Lue switched things up once again, opting to have the ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations obtain direct lines to the rim with the Cavs subsequently doing most of the damage in the paint. Then in the NBA Finals, despite having a second unit that had been among the postseason's best, it's Lue skirting all recent history to start Richard Jefferson over Kevin Love in a much-needed Game 3, playing Mo Williams over Matthew Dellavedova in a backup point guard role in Game 5, sitting Channing Frye despite his efficiency to this point in the season, and surprising the world by playing Dahntay freaking Jones, he of the $9,000 salary, in a crucial, 90-second moment that saw the Cavs extend their lead from 11 to 16 heading into the half.

"That's a long-time friend of mine and it just felt good to see him get in in such a crucial part of the game. With two and a half minutes to go in the half and you haven't played all series, you haven't played all game, and to come in and contribute the way he did, scoring five points in two minutes and just being aggressive defensively, rebounding the basketball, boxing Draymond [Green] out, I thought it was fantastic."

http://www.scout.com/cleveland-sports/story/1679016-iso-iso-all-dayLue did most of his studying at the University of Phil Jackson with some post-grad work done at Doc Rivers U. Everything he does, from his practice arrangements to his in-game use of timeouts, is a product of these two men. In their Game 5 win where the Cavaliers turned the ball over three times in the first four minutes, allowing Golden State to jump out to an early 9-3 lead, Lue called a timeout, walked to the huddle and just smiled at his 57-win squad, urging them to relax and merely play their game. By the six-minute mark, the Cavs had drawn closer; by the four-minute mark, the game was knotted up at 22 a piece.

He remains completely at ease on the bench, knowing full well that if players not in the game were to ever hear him disparage an individual, that the same could happen to them when they are on the floor. Facing a team like the Warriors, its this poise that has a substantial trickle-down effect as their league-best offense can rattle off double-digit runs in the blink of an eye. Alas, in Game 6 as the Cavs saw their 20-point lead get sawed into an eight-point lead within minutes, while fans at The Q and at home were getting nauseous, Lue was pacing the sideline making sure his players were playing as a team up eight, not as ones who were in the midst of a flurry.

"I just think it's important to stay poised," said Lue. "Guys are going to make mistakes. It's part of the game. But the effort that can always be there, the unselfishness, that can always be there. So I just attribute the calmness to Phil Jackson and just seeing as a player what works and what doesn't."

When asked earlier in the week about why players—specifically those on the current Cavaliers roster—relate to him so well (a potential shot at previous coaches to have taken the Cavs to this point in the season), Lue didn't skip a beat when he discussed what he had sustained as a player. A career-long role player who had stepped up admirably when needed, Lue has played for winners as well as losers. He's had hot streaks and cold ones. He missed most of 2000 with injuries yet was asked to guard Allen Iverson in the NBA Finals a year later.

"Guys are going to make mistakes. It's part of the game."

When it comes to relating to his star in James, LeBron mentions the similar paths taken by both men: Single-parent households, inner-city communities, having the odds stacked against them right out of the gate, but still defying odds. Their understanding of place and doing what is necessary to win a championship—be it as a role-player or a juggernaut of epic proportions.

"I think it's like anything, when you're around someone every single day, I guess it's like a marriage or a girlfriend," said James. "You're around them every single day, they get better and better and better if it's genuine, and that's what it is here with myself and T Lue."

Of course, winning can also be the tie that binds. Scheming up a variety of game plans that have been executing to varying degrees—most of which have resulted in positive final scores—allows for the coach-player relationship to fast track itself to happiness. While fans and analysts went into this NBA Finals match-up thinking that it was the Cavaliers with the defensive liabilities (many of which were exploited in Games 1 and 2), here's Tyronn Lue finding ways to go directly at this season's unanimous MVP, one who has been attempting to draw charges (thus taking himself out of plays) more than he has aided an erstwhile dominant defensive unit. Here's Tyronn Lue, finding ways to draw Draymond Green away from the rim just far enough for James to find a streaking Tristan Thompson for the easiest of two points. And here's Tyronn Lue going to guys like Mo Williams and Dahntay Jones in moments where absolutely no one saw it coming.

Heading in to the postseason, the Cavaliers undoubtedly had the talent, but many wondered if Lue would be able to stand his ground next to some of the league's preeminent in-game coaches. Could this first-year guy, just three years older than Richard Jefferson, take this team to the promised land, earning the city of Cleveland their first title in 50-plus years? While this is yet to be determined, the Cavaliers are one game away and the path to get here includes chalk outlines in the shapes of Stan Van Gundy, Mike Budenholzer and Dwane Casey.

"It's on everybody's shoulders," said Lue. "The city of Cleveland, the state of Ohio, our Cleveland Cavaliers team, the organization, it's on everybody's shoulders. We want to win... We want to win it for the city of Cleveland."

The last time Steve Kerr walked through the Quicken Loans Arena hallways following a Game 6, he was all smiles, covered head-to-toe in champagne having just celebrated with his championship-winning team. But not on this night. There were no smiles to be had—just pursed lips combined with an increased pace. The Cavaliers, led by a fist-bumping Ty Lue, thwarted plans of repeating those events, opting to force a Game 7, one which could allow Cleveland to flip that script, being the team to celebrate on the road, their ultimate goal achieved while an entire city does the same some 2,500 miles away.

Just one more. Just one more.


CLE4Me Top Stories