CLEVELAND Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue isn’t looking past the Boston Celtics even as his team is a win away from an NBA Finals trilogy against the Golden State Warriors.
In fact, Lue told Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon and a small group of Cleveland reporters that he and the Cavs have their hands full, more so after the Celtics lost top gun Isaiah Thomas for the rest of the playoffs due to a hip injury and went on to post a shocking Game 3 win in their Eastern Conference Finals series.
“You can’t,” Lue said in response to a reporter’s question on whether he’s thinking about another possible Finals clash with Golden State. “As much as you want to, it's not over. [The Celtics are], like I told you guys before, it's like we're preparing for a whole new team. Like, we didn't know what they were going to run.”
“Isaiah (Thomas) goes down and they're running a totally different offense than we prepared for so it's been tough on us. And defensively, they're a lot better. They don't have a lot of weak links to go to, to go at," he added.
It showed in Game 3 as the Celtics pulled off the stunner and even led by 16 early in Game 4 before the Cavs recovered and eventually took a 3-1 series lead with a 112-99 win on Tuesday.
However, Lue went so far as to laud the scrappy, undermanned Boston team as a squad that’s tougher to guard than the stellar Golden State side especially after Thomas went down.
"The stuff they're running, it's harder to defend than Golden State's (offense) for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it's a totally different thing," said Lue, before going on an expletive-laced praise for the schemes of Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
"Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s---. I’ll be like, 'F---.' They're running all kinds of s---, man. And Brad's got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It's tough, you know, it's tough," he added.
It could seem as a stretch especially with the Warriors roster of stars dominating the playoffs as the leader in points per game (118.3), field goal percentage (50.2), and assists (27.8) while second in offensive efficiency. The only stat the Celtics got close enough is on the assists with second-best rate of 27.4 dimes per game.
But Lue is adamant about his claim, pointing out the unpredictability of the Celtics as he had to restructure his gameplan when Thomas was ruled out after Game 2.
“It's tough. And we really didn't know what to expect. But I thought we did a good job of making some adjustments in the end of the second quarter and the third quarter and the second half [in Game 4] that really helped us out," he said, after the Cavs locked down the Celtics in the second half of Game 4.
The Cavs look to finish off the Celtics in Game 5 at Boston on Thursday.