Tyronn Lue will learn from Game 4 coaching miscues

— -- TORONTO -- Looking at the whole landscape and considering the challenges he has faced, Tyronn Lue's coaching performance has been excellent both down the stretch of the regular season and in the postseason.

It's also true that he looked like a rookie head coach for the first time as the Cleveland Cavaliers lost Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday night.

There were a handful of reasons the Toronto Raptors prevailed 105-99 to even the series:

  • The Raptors have dared the Cavs to shoot 3s -- the same 3s that Cleveland had been hitting at a record pace -- and that plan has worked.
  • Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have awoken, and on Monday night produced the best game they've ever played together.
  • The Cavs' defense, which had been shaky in the second half of the season, hasn't gotten the job done under pressure.
  • But Lue made two classic coaching mistakes in responding to his first playoff loss on Saturday night. He overreacted to what happened in Game 3, and when he got nervous, he responded by playing LeBron James into the ground.

    For the previous two months, Lue had probed, tested and crafted lineups that unlocked the Cavs' potential. He changed his starting lineup right at the end of the season, benching Timofey Mozgov. He made several moves during the postseason, specifically to create a dominating second unit, that have been masterstrokes. It was done with some sublime consideration, well-timed motivation and with the guidance of some analytics.

    But all of that went to the wind in the first half of Game 4. James played the first 14 minutes, throwing off the rotation of the second unit. Channing Frye, whom Lue had used perfectly, was inserted with players he wasn't used to playing with. And the whole team understandably looked like a mess, nothing like the well-oiled machine of the previous weeks.

    The Raptors were playing great -- Lowry was hitting everything -- and soon it was an 18-point game. The Cavs never truly recovered.

    "You can say whatever you want [about lineups], but I don't think it affected us," Frye said, defending his coach. "We're all pros out here. It was us, it wasn't the lineups. We've got some talented dudes on this team; that shouldn't be a conversation."

    Fair enough. But these are the conference finals. Teams cannot afford bad halves. Lue didn't have a good one. He will learn from it.

    He had learned from it by the second half, in fact.

    He went back to his rotations and systems he'd worked to put in place. It was his perfectly designed second unit that led the Cavs' comeback, which wasn't a surprise since no team in the East as been able to put a finger on that group since Lue created it. He found a set with James and Matthew Dellavedova on the elbow that the Raptors could not stop in the fourth quarter.

    But he'd forgotten to take LeBron off the floor.

    James played the entire second half and 46 minutes overall, like it was 2007 again. James said he could do it, and after the game, it appeared he still had energy left. That, though, is not the way to play, and Lue knows better. The Cavs' offense wilted over the last four minutes, and James' fatigue no doubt played a role.

    "I think whatever lineup Coach Lue puts on the floor can go the distance," James said. "We're all professionals. We have a great group of guys, so no matter who's on the floor, we have to execute."

    It's a good sign the Cavs are backing their coach; he has earned it. But Lue also set a standard for accountability within the team, and he probably will hold himself accountable for his efforts in this loss and apply this experience in the future.