Hornets coach Steve Clifford delivered an eloquent soliloquy on how adjustments actually work in the NBA playoffs.
And then there’s Stan Van Gundy.
LeBron’s always a pretty good adjustment, yeah. Yeah, that’s really smart coaching, to put LeBron on the floor. It is. That’s really smart coaching to put LeBron on the floor. I give him a lot of credit for that adjustment, if that’s what you want to call it.
Vardon actually made a good point, though I don’t think Van Gundy had interest in even considering the question’s nuance.
This wasn’t about how much LeBron played. He actually played 1:07 less than Game 1 (though if the score were close, he probably would’ve played the final 3:59 of Game 2). This was about when LeBron played.
In Game 1, Detroit outscored Cleveland by 13 in the five minutes LeBron sat to begin the second and fourth quarters.
In Game 2 – with LeBron on the court – Cleveland outscored Detroit by 11 in the six minutes before a majority of the Pistons’ starters returned in the second and fourth quarters.
Detroit’s bench has been a problem all season, especially after trading Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova for Tobias Harris. The upgrade of Harris from Ilyasova in the starting lineup outweighs other concerns, but a necessary side effect has been elevating Steve Blake permanently into the rotation. It’s hard for the 36-year-old point guard to run a unit, and he’s a defensive liability. That puts too much pressure on the Pistons’ other backups.
Nobody in this series is more capable of exploiting that weakness than LeBron. So, Tyronn Lue wisely found more minutes for LeBron against Detroit’s reserves. And Cleveland’s other starters held their own in increased minutes without LeBron.
This adjustment worked.
Now, it’s on Van Gundy to answer – not in his post-game press conference, but in Game 3.