Pacers had 3-1 edge in regular season
With the playoffs just days away, Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue typically would have his lineup rotations set by now.
Nothing has been typical about this season for the Cavs.
Lue said Thursday that he plans to use a 10-player rotation for Cleveland’s opening-round series against the Indiana Pacers, but that things could change depending on injuries, matchups and performances.
“I will play 10,” Lue said after the Cavaliers watched film on the Pacers, who went 3-1 against Cleveland this season. “We’ll just see how it looks and if one guy is not great this round, then it might be nine.”
Lue and his staff have been juggling lineups and using different combinations on the floor for months, forced to adjust and re-adjust, first because of injuries and then by a slew of trades that transformed the team.
Lue refused to name his full starting lineup for Sunday’s Game 1. He revealed previously that four of them will be LeBron James, Kevin Love, Jeff Green and George Hill. The other spot could go to veteran shooter Kyle Korver, who has been slowed by a foot injury and whose status remains uncertain.
“He’s getting better,” Lue said of Korver, who also missed time recently following his brother’s death. “I’m not sure if he’s 100 percent yet, but he’s getting better and that’s all you can ask for.”
If Korver isn’t ready, Rodney Hood, one of four players acquired at the trade deadline, will likely start. He’s been slowed by a sore left Achilles, but Lue said Hood’s “ready to go.”
As for Cleveland’s reserves, Jordan Clarkson, J.R. Smith and Jose Calderon are in the rotational mix, with forwards Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. being used depending on whom Indiana has on the floor.
One of the holdovers from Cleveland’s past three Finals teams, Thompson played extended minutes in the second half of Wednesday’s loss to New York while Nance rested, a sign that Lue might be leaning toward him playing more.
Thompson was excused from Thursday’s practice because of the birth of his daughter.
Lue trusts all his players. He’s had no choice following a turbulent regular season in which he didn’t always know who would be available until moments before tipoff. But Lue has depth and intends to use it.
Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley’s philosophy in the playoffs was: “You rotate eight players. You play seven. You use six and you trust five.”
Not Lue. Not this year.
“You usually go nine,” he said. “I think we’ve been nine in the past, but I think it’s going to be important to go 10 for us because I like Clarkson being on the floor with a point guard, so that makes us play 10.”
Hill, who has plenty of playoff experience with San Antonio, Indiana and Utah, said Cleveland’s versatility may give the Cavs an advantage.
“I’ve been on a team that played a 10-man rotation in the playoffs, but I haven’t been on a team this deep, so I think we’ll have a lot of great guys that we can throw out there on the court with big lineups, small lineups,” he said. “I think we can play any type of style.”
For Hill, the matchup against the Pacers represents a homecoming, as he played for IUPUI and spent five years with the Pacers. It’s also a chance to win a championship with James, a former playoff nemesis.
Hill played on those Pacers teams that were eliminated in three straight postseasons by James and the Miami Heat.
That can’t happen this time.
“The good thing is we got the best player in the world playing for us,” Hill said. “So I’m very excited about that. I don’t got to get put out by him this year, which I did a lot in my career. So, I’m happy to be on the other side.”