The Cleveland Cavaliers’ 3-1 2016 NBA Finals comeback is easily one of the greatest feats in basketball history. Coming back from a deficit is one thing. Doing it against a 73-win Golden State Warriors squad led by the greatest shooter of all time is another. The prodigious basketball mind behind this milestone is none other than Tyronn Lue, who recently shared one of his coaching tricks.
One could assume that Lue showed ample game film to his players during the tense series. It is one of the most effective ways for the team to see their mistakes with their own eyes. Interestingly, Lue did not lean on this tactic immediately, especially after their horrendous Game 1 and 2 losses.
“When we lost games, I would never show film. Why would I not show film? The first two games we got beat by like 30 and 28. I don’t want them to see that. That’s demoralizing,” Lue said, per the Knuckleheads podcast.
Lue’s strategy makes perfect sense. Motivation is as important as Xs and Os. As the head coach, it is Lue’s job to tell his team that they can beat the powerhouse team. Yes, they lost the first two games, but there are still five more to go. Anything can happen.
Half-court shots at practice
Lue did not just flat-out ignore film from the previous games. After all, it’s all valuable material. Before the team comes up with an antidote, they have to know exactly what type of poison they are dealing with. What makes Lue a good coach is that he knows how to set the tone at practice.
“So when I come in, we shoot half-court shots, we do stuff that’s fun. And we finally won that one game. And I would go back and show like from Game 1 and 2 what we needed to do better, we got to take away this. We lost Game 4, I didn’t show film. We shot half-court shots.”
Tyronn Lue, The Knuckleheads
It seems like a daring tactic. It would be understandable if Lue and his staff pressed the panic button. But Lue stuck to his guns. From his experience as a player and an assistant, Lue knows how setting the atmosphere is as critical as parsing out the game film. Mixing up the steps could be lethal. As a coach, your first duty is to get your players’ minds and spirits up. Once you achieve that, it is time to dive into the game’s nuances.
Perhaps Lue’s story should strip off some of the perceptions that LeBron James was the “real” architect of that 3-1 comeback. James obviously had a big part -- we all know about his supreme basketball mind. But Lue should also be given credit. He’s not just a basketball genius. Lue is also a master of human psychology in his own right.