LeBron James is obviously the Cavaliers’ best player. Cleveland’s second-best player? Usually Kevin Love, but Kyle Korver has made a case lately.
So, how did Korver play just 19 minutes, including none in the first quarter, in the Cavs’ Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night? That was his playoff low, besides Game 1 against the Pacers, when he was still recovering from injury.
Blame Boston coach Brad Stevens removing Semi Ojeleye from his rotation.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue:
Well, initially, he’s been putting [Semi] Ojeleye in, so that’s been kind of Kyle’s matchup when he comes in the game. He didn’t play him tonight, so it kind of threw us for a loop.
This won’t slow the talk of Stevens being a genius. He neutralized one of Cleveland’s best players simply by not using a limited rookie.
Still, Lue’s strategy held some merit. Korver is a defensive liability, but Ojeleye’s offensive limitations make it hard to take advantage. Ojeleye’s biggest strength, his physical strength, is of limited utility in trying to stick tight to Korver on the perimeter.
In Games 1-4, Cavaliers with Korver on and…
- Offensive rating: 111.9
- Defensive rating: 102.1
- Net rating: +9.9
- Offensive rating: 97.0
- Defensive rating: 109.5
- Net rating: -12.5
That said, Korver is too good to plant on the bench. Other perimeter options – J.R. Smith, George Hill, Jordan Clarkson and Jeff Green (who actually played fine last night) – are just so unreliable. Lue shouldn’t just wait for the perfect matchup to use Korver.
But will Lue get it, anyway?
We believe in Semi and we think he’s a big, huge part of our team. It would not be a shock if he plays a ton for us in Game 6.
Lue better develop a plan for using Korver in Game 6 Friday, with contingencies based on Stevens using or not using Ojeleye. I wouldn’t trust Stevens’ declaration one bit, and Lue doesn’t want to get thrown for a loop again.