Tyronn Lue had one of the best-ever win-lose records for fired coach

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Tyronn Lue said, when informed by the Cavaliers they were firing David Blatt in 2016, Lue responded: “This is f—– up.”

So, at least Lue is no stranger to the absurdity of a coach getting fired with an impressive record.

Blatt is one of the few fired coaches with a better win percentage than Lue, who succeeded Blatt in Cleveland then got fired yesterday. In his prior three seasons, Lue coached the Cavs to a championship, helped them return to the NBA Finals then – after Kyrie Irving got traded for pieces that whittled down to nearly nothing – guided them back to the Finals again.

Lue won 61% of his games with the Cavaliers (128-83), making him one of just 33 coaches to get fired despite winning at least 60% of his games during his tenure.

Determining who was fired can be tricky, but I included cases where it seems the coach was forced out, even if his contract expired. Consider Phil Jackson with the Bulls in 1998 the minimum bar, give or take, for a coach to be considered fired. Though he seemed ready to leave Chicago, Jackson definitely wasn’t welcome back.

Here’s every coach to win at least 60% of his games on a job and get fired (seasons coached, including partials, listed by the year they ended):

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That list is littered with coaches who piled up good regular seasons then flamed out in the playoffs. After a while (or sometimes very quickly), that usually wears thin.

But that didn’t apply to Lue, who reached the Finals in all three of his prior seasons and finished with a playoff record of 41-20 (67%). Only Jackson (with both the Bulls and his first Lakers stint), Blatt and Paul Westhead got fired from jobs despite their teams performing so well in the postseason.

Here’s every coach to win at least 60% of his playoff games on a job and get fired (seasons coached, including partials, listed by the year they ended):

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Most coach’s with Lue’s résumé buy themselves time to work through down seasons. The Cavs fired him after losing just six regular-season games this year.

Maybe that was the right move. The team was clearly misaligned. Cleveland’s 0-6 record only begins to describe the problems.

But most general managers would’ve given a coach like Lue more benefit of the doubt after all that he accomplished. It’s unlikely the Cavaliers were suddenly going to start winning. Let more of these losses accumulate on his record, and articles like this probably don’t get written.

The big difference is Lue – and Blatt and Mike Brown, who made the regular-season chart above and barely missed the playoff chart by winning 59% of his playoff games – coached LeBron James. Fairly or not, LeBron is a black hole who consumes nearly all credit or blame for his team’s performance. So, while Lue, Blatt and Brown built elite coaching records, that was largely seen as a product of LeBron.

Coaching win percentage is only a moderately accurate way to measure coaching ability. I doubt Lue suddenly became a far worse coach when LeBron left for the Lakers. But if LeBron remained in Cleveland and the Cavs were winning accordingly, Lue probably wouldn’t have gotten fired.

Perhaps, that’s just because Lue was the right coach for a LeBron-led team and the wrong coach for this group. Fit matters with coaching.

But I suspect it’s mostly about record, and 0-6 was too much for management to bear. As imperfect a measure as coaching win percentage is, it’s one that usually determines job status.

Except in a rare case like this, when it doesn’t.

Clippers stun Warriors by forcing rare Game 6

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The Warriors feel inevitable.

So, when the Clippers let a 15-point second-half lead dwindle away in the final minutes, the game and series appeared over.

Instead, Lou Williams responded with a personal 8-0 – including a four-point play – run that sparked L.A. to a 129-121 Game 5 win Wednesday. The last two teams to lose a home Game 5 while leading a series 3-1:

  • 2019 Warriors vs. Clippers
  • 2016 Warriors vs. Cavaliers

Golden State will try to avoid any more comparisons to those 2016 NBA Finals in Game 6 Friday. The Warriors have won both their games in L.A. in this series, but have dropped two in Oakland – more home losses than they had the previous two postseasons combined.

The Rockets took care of business earlier in the night, but Golden State didn’t clinch its place in the anticipated rematch. The Clippers just aren’t making it easy.

“It’s a little mix of arrogance and just hard work,” said Williams, who scored 33 points and dished 10 assists. “We have a lot of young guys. We have a lot of veterans, guys that want to prove their names. We were wrote off early on in the year, people saying we weren’t a good team. We take all of those things. We digest it, and we try to make as much as we can out of it. So, it’s shown in this series.”

These Clippers have such an awesome identity.

They easily could have cherished their 31-point comeback in Game 2 as their moment of the series. But they kept fighting.

Patrick Beverley (17 points, 14 rebounds and four assists) was everywhere. Montrezl Harrell (24 points on 11-of-14 shooting with a clutch block) controlled the paint. Danilo Gallinari (26 points) got rolling after a couple off games.

L.A. has already won more games (two) than anyone except Houston (which won three in last year’s Western conference finals) in a series against the Warriors since they added Kevin Durant.

Durant scored 45 tonight, but Golden State turned up its defensive intensity too late.

“Build from this game? This game sucked. We lost,” Klay Thompson said. “Let’s go win Friday. Let’s win big. Let’s freaking win by 30 like we’re capable of.”

Rockets set up rematch with Warriors

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Bring on the Warriors.

The Rockets did their part to set up a highly anticipated rematch by dispatching the Jazz 100-93 in Game 5 Wednesday. With a 4-1 series victory over Utah, Houston enters the second round to face the winner of Warriors-Clippers. Golden State leads 3-1 entering its own Game 5 tonight.

Houston pushed these Warriors harder than anyone has, falling just short in last year’s seven-game Western Conference finals. James Harden said he thinks about losing Games 6 and 7 every day.

Will the Rockets supplant Golden State this year?

Harden is better. Chris Paul is healthy. The Warriors – their veterans a year older, Kevin Durant‘s impending free agency causing more drama – look somewhat vulnerable.

But Golden State is still favored in the second-round series before even winning its first-round series. The Warriors have historic top-end talent, and that usually wins out in the playoffs.

It did for the Rockets against the Jazz.

Harden (26 points, six rebounds, six assists, four blocks and three steals) and Paul (15 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals) weren’t great tonight. But they gave Houston enough considering Utah’s best player was Royce O'Neale (18 points on 8-of-13 shooting).

Donovan Mitchell (12 points on 4-of-22 shooting, including 0-for-9 on 3-pointers, with only one assist and five turnovers) had an awful game I doubt he’ll forget. His competitiveness and self-awareness are so impressive. I bet this only fuels him.

The Rockets are ready now.

They’ve won 24 of their last 29 games, going back to the regular season. They like to play a high-scoring style, but they’re versatile enough to adjust. P.J. Tucker and Clint Capela keyed a strong defensive performance tonight.

Houston probably won’t beat Golden State. But the Rockets have the opportunity they’ve desired for the last 332 days.

PBT Podcast: Looking ahead at the NBA playoffs second round

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Boston vs. Milwaukee. Philadelphia vs. Toronto. Houston vs. Golden State.

The first round of the NBA playoffs had plenty of emotion — just ask Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook — but it was short, with very possibly only one series going at least six games.

The second round? That’s not going to be so quick, and it is filled with even matchups that present a lot of questions.

Is this the Rockets’ year? They have the formula, can they execute it? The Bucks were the best team in the regular season, but can they carry that elite level into the second round against Boston? Is Toronto the team to beat?

Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports/Real GM/Celticsblog to look ahead at the second round, and even talk a little about what is next for Oklahoma City.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Sebastian Telfair convicted on gun charge, faces up to 15 years in prison

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Sebastian Telfair – a high school phenom from Coney Island, N.Y. – was the No. 13 pick in the 2004 NBA draft. He never lived up to the hype, but he still stuck in the NBA for 10 seasons, with the Trail Blazers, Timberwolves, Suns, Celtics, Clippers, Thunder, Raptors and Cavaliers.

He got arrested in 2017 for gun crimes and just his lost his trial.

TMZ:

Sebastian Telfair has been convicted of possessing a firearm … and could be sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Don’t assume Telfair will get the maximum sentence, but this is a serious conviction and will likely carry a serious sentence.