LeBron: Cavs will adjust to match Warriors, won't tweak starters

ByDave McMenamin ESPN logo
Sunday, June 14, 2015

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Just because the Golden State Warriors' decision to go small with their starting lineup in Game 4 of the NBA Finals -- replacing Andrew Bogut with Andre Iguodala--paid off with a win Thursday doesn't mean the Cleveland Cavaliers will adjust their first unit for Game 5 on Sunday, according to LeBron James.

"We're going to play our game," James said before practice Saturday. "We've gotten to this point by playing the way we play, and we're not going to change. We'll make adjustments throughout the game, but we won't change our starting lineup."

The Cavs have switched up their starting five in the postseason out of necessity -- Tristan Thompson replaced Kevin Love when Love injured his shoulder; Matthew Dellavedova replaced Kyrie Irving when Irving injured his knee; Iman Shumpert replaced J.R. Smith when Smith was suspended -- but have yet to do so solely based on tactical reasoning.

"Well, I think that we've made more than our share of adjustments throughout the course of the entire playoffs, not only in this series. Every game brings out new things and certainly presents new challenges," Cavs coach David Blatt said.

"If you look at the one game, it makes you think, 'OK, we've got to change this, that and the other thing.' If you look at the four games, in three out of four of those games we were pretty good doing the things that we did. So I think you'll see a combination of both of those possibilities.

"We've got to continue to do certain things really well. What we need to change, we will."

If Cleveland was to make a change, its options would appear limited if it stuck to a seven-man rotation. It's feasible Smith could return to his starting role, switching with Shumpert, in hopes of getting him out of the shooting slump he's been mired in during the Finals (he's shooting 29.8 percent overall and 25 percent from 3, bottoming out with a 2-for-12 performance in Game 4 that included an 0-for-8 mark from downtown). Or it could try to match small with small and bring Timofey Mozgov off the bench. However, Mozgov scored a career-high 28 points in Game 4, and the Cavs outrebounded the Warriors as a team, so that would seemingly take away one of the strengths the Cavs have going for them.

Of course, Golden State won't have the element of surprise on its side should coach Steve Kerr go with the same small-ball unit again at tipoff.

"In this case with our bigs, Timo and Tristan, Timo's starting off on Iggy, it's a different matchup than Bogut, obviously," James said. "You've got a guy that's primarily on the perimeter in Game 4 versus guarding a guy that's always in the paint, for the most part, unless he's initiating offense. So it's definitely a different change for us. But I think we'll be much more prepared for it tomorrow night if they go with the same lineup."

Perhaps a more likely adjustment will be for Blatt to go deeper into his bench in Game 5 and expand his rotation to include Shawn Marion or Mike Miller.

"We've got a lot of experienced players on our roster, and a lot of guys have been through these battles before," Blatt said. "Some of the guys have not played a whole lot. Our results have been pretty good as we've been playing, but, again, I believe in those guys and their ability to step in, if necessary, and do what needs to be done."

There is no guarantee that Kerr, who openly copped to lying to the press about his lineup plans leading up to Game 4, won't go back to Bogut in the starting lineup anyway.

"I say anything, I'm guessing it might get back to David [Blatt]," Kerr said when asked if he was going to stick to the small-ball group he used Thursday.

"So I'll just say that I've established my penchant for lying. So however I answer right now, you shouldn't believe me anyway."

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