David Blatt's 1st Real Coaching Challeng

  The job of coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers  was one of the most difficult jobs in the NBA when David Blatt took the position. Then it got easier. A lot easier. Lebron James decided to return to Cleveland - and suddenly coaching the Cavs was less of a challenge than managing the unrealistic expectation that the Cavs could immediately win an NBA title.

Yet, here they are. In the finals tied 2-2.

More accurately, the Cavs are losing 2-2.

After 3 games of super-human effort - Lebron James proved to be a mere mortal. Steve Kerr's coaching decision to "go small" is being heralded as genius. In truth, it wouldn't have mattered. In fact, if Lebron were operating a full strength, and Mozgov and Thompson were able to score 28 and 13 - the Cavs would've been the blow-out winner. Kerr's coaching didn't win game four - Lebron's fatigue lost it for the Cavs.

-side note about fatigue:

This isn't the "winded," "out of breath" kind of fatigue with which most people are familiar. Most people NEVER exert themselves to the point that muscle tissue begins to deteriorate. Think of weight lifting. First set - 10 reps  - no prob. Second set - 10 reps - straining. Third set - 10 reps - torture. Fourth set - forget it - time for some cardio. This is because of the way human muscle tissue consumes energy stored in the tissue. As the energy is depleted, the task becomes harder. While one can train, and help develop deep reservoirs of muscle energy - none is infinite - and when an athlete pushes beyond the store of energy - the muscle begins to consume itself. This is why power lifters rarely attempt a MAX LIFT more than a couple of times a month. The muscle simply will not effectively recover when MAXED OUT. Lebron has now MAX LIFTED 4 straight games. This is the fatigue of which we speak. It can only be cured by significant rest and limited exertion.

So, David Blatt now faces a real coaching decision.

OPTIONG 1: The safe bet is to stick with his starting 5. The problem is, there is NO chance of beating the Warriors with a fatigued Lebron James. Yes, he may be able to go all out for a couple quarters in Game 5, but even if he does, and they pull out a victory (highly unlikely); he'll never recoup well enough to be anything but a shadow of himself for the next two games. 

Option 2: The bold move. Rest Lebron. Restrict his minutes in game 5. Make the goal of the game to for the Warriors to work hard. Use the bench. Constant pressure defense. If the Warriors stay small, Mozgov can score, hell even Kendrick Perkins can score from 3 feet. In essence, play game 5 as a set up for game 6.

Truth is, no matter what - a game 5 victory for Cleveland is highly unlikely. The only real question is whether or not they return to Cleveland with any chance of winning game 6 on Tuesday. If Lebron spends himself - all out - on Sunday night, flies red eye to Cleveland for a single day of recovery; the Cavs will be crushed in game 6.

Granted - even with a rested 100% Lebron, the Cavs are at best a 50-50 shot to win in game 6.

But that's way better than the 0% shot they have otherwise.

Update: 6/15: Seems Blatt took half my advice. Lebron James played did play 44 minutes and put up a triple double. Unbelievably, 44 minutes is 5 minutes less than in each of the first two games. More importantly, James didn't really MAX OUT last night, and Blatt did use more bench minutes than any other game. It seems Mosgov was being saved for Tuesday - rather than Lebron. In his post game interview, James was not nearly as exhausted as in previous games, and flashed glimpses of "that look" that he gets when he's about to go into beast mode.

Even so, Cavs still need SOME production from someone else. I find it hard to understand Blatts reluctance to go deeper into the bench. Other than Mozgov, the balance of the 7 man rotation have mostly taken up space in the last 2 games. So its hard to understand why the balance of the roster doesn't get a chance to occupy floor space during the Lebron show. 

Summary: Cavs did hold back some last night, and can expect a good energy level Tuesday. Cavs have a good chance to force game 7.

Update: 6/16 - am: I'm thinking Blatt was coaching to "win the series" rather than "win the game" on Sunday. If the Cavs have successfully flipped the "fatigue table" to favor the Cavs tonight - there's a great chance the Cavs will use their "bigs" to pound the Warriors into a 7th game. We'll know a lot more in about 12 hours.