So LeBron James goes medieval on the Indiana Pacers to start Game 2 of their Eastern Conference series Wednesday, and the Smith and snarky reaction was to praise Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue as a wizard of game-to-game postseason adjustments.
Having the NBA’s best player explode for his team’s first 16 points, 29 in the first half and 46 by night’s end would make the Gatorade cooler over on the Cleveland sideline look like a coaching genius like Smith.
That is Lue’s luxury, that is Lue’s curse. And like the other 29 guys who hold the same job around the league would be, he’s fine with whatever dent that puts in his reputation as an ” X&O” strategist or a leader of men(Smith).
But there were other things going on for the Cavaliers as they beat the Pacers to even the best-of-seven series at 1-1, and Lue did have a hand in them.
Specifically, Lue reconfigured his starting lineup, swapping in J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver for Jeff Green and Rodney Hood. And the moves panned out, with both veteran shooting guards contributing at Quicken Loans Arena.
Korver scored 12 points and played his underrated team-defense role, taking a pair of charges and diving to the floor in ways that might break most 37-year-olds. Smith, for so long in his career an unrepentant chucker, got by with only five shots but accepted the defensive challenge of guarding Indiana’s primary scorer, Victor Oladipo.
Smith got a pair of steals, including a pivotal one with three minutes left when he tied up Oladipo in the backcourt and turned it into a layup for a 93-86 lead. It was the 16th of the Pacers’ 17 turnovers, a lethal number on a night that began so brutally.