CLEVELAND — Steve Kerr made the first big, bold coaching move of the Finals changing his starting lineup to go small. He did it because he had to, his team was getting beat with what they normally had done.
Also, he did it because he could.
The onus now falls on coach David Blatt and the Cavaliers to make their counter moves — but don’t expect a big roster change.
Because he can’t. Not with a seven-man rotation.
“We don’t have many options as far as lineups we can go to, but we can make adjustments,” LeBron James said. “That’s what you do throughout a series. We’ll get to the film and make the necessary adjustments coming into Game 5. But as far as lineup changes, we don’t have many different lineup changes we can actually go to.”
If it’s not going to be a dramatic adjustment, what are the Cavaliers counting on for Game 5?
Rest. Better shooting.
With rest, there are two days off between games four and five, and that benefits the Cavaliers, who have a short bench. This is a team where key players like Matthew Dellavedova and LeBron are publicly dealing with cramps (and other guys doing the same, just not as publicly). LeBron was not getting to the rim late, settling for fade aways. Stephen Curry blew by a dead-legged Dellavedova all night.
“Yes,” Blatt said when asked if fatigue was a factored into Game 4. “Tonight was the third game in five days, including the trip back from the West Coast, and it seemed to have an impact on us, yes.”
Maybe if the Cavs are rested there will be a little more spring in their legs. Which brings us to…
Shooting better. The Cavaliers shot 33 percent overall and were 4-of-27 from three in Game 4. But it wasn’t just about defense, they were missing looks they normally knock down — the Cavaliers were 6-of-29 on uncontested looks.
“Offensively we were terrible,” LeBron said. ” You can’t always bank on your offense. Sometimes your offense just doesn’t show up, and there is no way we go 4-for-27 from the three-point line and expect to win. We outrebounded them still. We had 16 offensive rebounds. We had 20 second chance points. But we just couldn’t get the long ball going tonight, and that definitely hurt our offense hurt us just as bad as anything.”
“We didn’t make shots,” Blatt added. “And that put a little bit more pressure on (LeBron), too, because he was passing the ball, and the normal shots that we make in that situation, we didn’t.”
Often when you ask a coach in any playoff series what needs to be done following a loss and they will answer something along the lines of “effort” or “energy” rather than with strategy. Even when what they need is a strategy change.
For the Cavaliers it has to be energy and effort. Their roster isn’t changing for Game 5, Blatt has who he has. And if he really trusted guys like Shawn Marion and Mike Miller, you already would have seen a lot more of them.
Still, Blatt likes the Cavaliers chances.
“We’re in a three game series for the NBA Finals. Six months ago I would have bought that,” Blatt said, referencing the Cavaliers challenging first half of the season. “We’ve got to go back to the drawing board, go back to work, continue to believe in ourselves, play the best basketball we can, and try to win this thing.”