Tyronn Lue says defense will determine who gets more minutes between Tristan Thompson, Larry Nance Jr.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are set to begin their first-round playoff matchup against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday afternoon. This pits them against one of the more efficient offenses in the league led by their young core of talent.
Through much of the season, the Cavaliers have had their fair share of struggles on the defensive end of the court. With that in mind, head coach Tyronn Lue stated on Friday that the playing time between veteran big men Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance Jr. will be determined by their play defensively, according to Nikki Goel of ClutchPoints.
— Nikki Goel (@NikkiGoelCavs) April 13, 2018
The Cavaliers have depended on both to provide some sort of resistance in the paint as Nance Jr. has been more effective in that regard. This will be an important factor with the Pacers led by All-Star guard Victor Oladipo, who has shown a prowess of getting to the rim while Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis have each become viable factors getting to the rim.
Although Cleveland has struggled to play with any consistency defensively this season, the two have made a difference on the floor. The Cavaliers have allowed a 114.7 opposing offensive rating with Thompson playing in the game compared to 111.0 rating when he is not. Meanwhile, opposing teams are holding a 105.3 offensive rating with Nance Jr. in the game compared to 113.0 when he’s not on the floor.
From this regard alone, it’s clear that Nance Jr. is having a larger impact defensively when he is in the game, which could lead to him playing a more significant role. On top of that, his presence allows for the Cavaliers to play a small-ball lineup with him on the floor. With this being his first trip to the playoffs, it could be his chance to showcase that he can be a key part of another deep playoff run for Cleveland.