By EDDIE G. ALINEA
Days after seeing Cleveland face elimination, debate on why Cavaliers’ coach Lue benched the Cavs’ third best player Kyle Korver most of Game 5 where Boston took a 96-83 win and went ahead, 3-2, in their best-of-seven NBA Eastern Conference finals continued.
The victory, which many least expected because of the way he Cavs annihilated the Celtics in Games 3 and 4 to tie the series in their own house following Boston’s twin triumphs at the Garden, pushed LeBon James and his teammates on the brink
That, likewise, put the green and white Celts one win away from gaining a seat in the NBA Finals.
To a Boston fan, the only Cav one wouldn’t want to be in the Cleveland lineup outside of All-Stars James and Kevin Love, is Korver. So it came as a relief to the TD Garden crowd when the 37-year-old sniper never got off the bench in the first quarter of Game 5.
After averaging 13 points on 65 percent shooting (57 percent from 3-point range) in Games 2 and 4 of the series, Korver played just 19 minutes in Wednesday’s Cleveland loss, half of which came when his Cavs trailed by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter.
Coach Lue’s explanation after the defeat was Celtics mentor Brad Stevens “has 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.”
“But we got Bron out with two-and-a-half minutes, and at the start of the fourth he wasn’t ready to go. The same thing happened I think Game 1 or 2; I can’t remember, Lue added. ”
So, Lue didn’t play his third-best player this series in a pivotal Game 5 because the Celtics didn’t play their eighth-best player. Funny, wasn’t it?
Lue, likewise, attributed to Korver’s elbow injury suffered at the team’s pre-game shootaround earlier although the sweet-shooting guard never showed it 19-minute stay on the floor making two of his five 3-point attempts to finish with seven points.
Bottom line is Ty Lue inadvertently admitted to being out-coached by Stevens
Meanwhile, question on LeBron’s being spent also cropped up. And it was coach Lue, too, who opened the conversation regarding the MVP candidate’s health condition during the post-game interview with the press, saying: “He looked a little tired to me.” Lue said of James.
James readily dismissed the notion though in his turn to talk.“I’m fine, J “I didn’t mention fatigue, the media did, “he said.
James has logged an NBA-leading 648 minutes this postseason and that reinforced just how much wear and tear James has endured in his career above and beyond the grind of regular-season play.
During the Cavs’ series with the Toronto Raptors, James complained of the lack of off-days in what could infer the need for rest.
Game 6 of the Boston-Cleveland Eastern Conference finals where the Cavs will try to escape being booted out of further contention is set Friday at their Quicken Loans Arena home in Cleveland.
Expect James, worn out or not, to log huge minutes in what could be his last effort to keep Cleveland’s title aspirations alive. (ENDIT)