Kyle Korver is a very efficient shooter from beyond the arc. He is arguably one of the best three-point shooters in the league. When Korver’s on his game, it’s a game-changer simply because when he’s hitting his shots, it completely changes the Cleveland Cavaliers’ offense and forces the defense to immediately change their gameplan, opening up shooting lanes and the paint for his teammates, including the best player in the world who does well in space.
Sunday night, the wine and gold needed a spark offensively. If it wasn’t obvious after the Cavs scored just 14 points in the opening quarter of their 2018 postseason, it became even more apparent while the offense continued to stall for the majority of the 48 minutes, with the Cavaliers scoring just 80 points in their embarrassing loss to the Indiana Pacers in Game 1.
The team has a few players that can catch fire and immediately spark the offense. Those seem to be LeBron James, Kevin Love, JR Smith, Jordan Clarkson, and Korver. No. 23 did his best, but none of the others could carry the load offensively on Sunday. Well, at least for the first four named. Korver was never really given the chance.
Although head coach Tyronn Lue stated that the sharpshooter was on a minutes restriction prior to the game while he continues to deal with right foot soreness, he also said that Korver was doing well.
“It’s not a concern because today [team trainer] Steve [Spiro] and Kyle spoke about how [Korver]’s feeling really good,” the head coach said when asked if he expected Korver’s foot to be an issue throughout the playoffs. “But he needs to get on the court, go up-and-down, move and see how he feels. But just to be cautious, he’s on a minutes restriction for tonight.”
Minutes restriction or not, Korver played just four (4!) minutes in Game 1, all of which came in one stint in the middle of the first quarter. If anything, the minutes restriction was most likely (at least) 15 minutes, not below 10. Instead, the 37-year-old totaled by far the fewest amount of minutes of the nine other players who were in the rotation.1
With the Cavs seemingly looking for a spark offensively all night, utilizing a guy like Korver seemed to be a logical answer, but that obviously wasn’t the case. Following the game, Lue even stated that Korver only playing four minutes had nothing to do with his foot. Then why?
Only Lue knows I guess. The Cavs lost by 18, but inserting Korver into the rotation for more than four minutes seems too obvious, but then again, it was a move that could have provided a spark to an offense that just seemed off in Game 1. Not only could he have hit some shots, but playing a guy like Korver only four minutes with a Cavs’ offense struggling as much as it did seems strange, to say the least.
What makes it even more suspect is the fact that Jeff Green tallied 27 minutes. In those 27 minutes, Green totaled just one assist and not a single point while missing all seven of his shot attempts. It would be different if the versatile defender was using that to his advantage while seemingly lost on the other end of the floor, but he didn’t. Green didn’t provide much defensively, at least in the role that Lue gave him, and virtually made it 4-on-5 when the Cavaliers had the ball.
Korver isn’t known for his defense, but with the offense struggling to find a groove and go-to scorer (other than James) on Sunday, a guy like Korver could have completely changed the game if he was given the opportunity to do so. Even if he wasn’t hitting his shots, Korver’s presence on the court changes the defense’s gameplan immensely. It would have allowed his teammates to have more space to get buckets. Instead, Lue kept a guy like Green in the game too long, virtually leaving Cleveland’s offense a man down.
It may not have led to the Cavs owning a 1-0 lead in the series, but giving Korver more minutes could have made things much more interesting Sunday night. Instead, the Pacers now have a 1-0 series lead, home-court advantage, and plenty of momentum heading into Game 2 Wednesday night.
The Cavs’ offense will likely play much better going forward, but Lue could have helped ease the pain Sunday night by giving a sharpshooter like Korver more than just four minutes off the bench. Cleveland is still favored to win series, but its decisions like this that could lead to the Cavs somehow losing the series, which would send shockwaves throughout the rest of the NBA.
- Jose Calderon was the next fewest with nine minutes played. [↩]