INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Despite a disastrous third quarter in which they were outscored 36-22, the Cleveland Cavaliers entered the fourth quarter of their Eastern Conference Finals Game 2 matchup with the Boston Celtics trailing by just seven points.
So as the Cavs took the court for the fourth quarter with the Celtics still well within striking distance, it came as a surprise to many that not only LeBron James, but also Kevin Love, remained on the Cleveland bench.
With a bench unit of its own opposing a Cavs five-some consisting of Kyle Korver, George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr., Boston proceeded to stretch its lead to 11 before James re-entered the game with 10:41 remaining on the clock. By that point, however, the damage had been done; the Cavs never inched any closer than within six points of the Celtics, who proceeded to win 107-94 to take a 2-0 series lead.
Asked on Thursday about the perplexing lineup that didn't include either of his All-Star forwards, Lue insisted it wasn't his original plan to start the fourth quarter without LeBron or Love. Rather, James -- who had just played the entirety of the third quarter and leads the Cavs in playoff playing time by nearly 100 minutes -- had asked for a break, throwing a wrench in the Cleveland head coach's rotation plans.
"I wanted to start 'Bron, but he said he needed a rest," Lue revealed. "So it kind of messed our rotation up a little bit. I wanted to play him the first two or three minutes of that fourth quarter, get Kevin back and give him a rest, but he said he needed a break, so that's what it was."
Asked if the issue would cause him to consider staggering James and Love's minutes to ensure one of them is always on the court, Lue said that's what the Cavs often try to do already, but admitted Game 2 "got away from us a little bit."
"We kind of caught a groove towards the end of the third quarter," Lue said. "Hopefully we could have rode it out and then tried to bring LeBron back to start the fourth quarter, but he said he needed a break."
But regardless of how the mishap came about, the Cavs now find themselves trailing Boston 0-2 with the series coming back to Cleveland for Games 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on Monday.
For however long this series lasts, don't expect to see many -- if not any -- minutes without either of the Cavs' two leading scorers on the floor. In fact, that was the plan on Tuesday as well, but circumstances in both the first and fourth quarter prevented that from happening on two separate occasions.
"We'll be better at it next time," Lue said.