Cavs coach Tyronn Lue was answering questions Wednesday about LeBron James' minutes when he said something interesting.
"Teams are suffering because they listen to what the media is saying about guys playing minutes," he said. When asked later what he meant, he added, "Some teams should play some guys more minutes, and it would've been different series. So, whatever."
The fact he said "series" means he's talking about a playoff series. Three NBA first-round series are finished at the moment: Cavs-Pacers, Warriors-Trail Blazers and Rockets-Thunder. The only player whose minutes were a topic of discussion was Russell Westbrook against Houston.
Russell Westbrook was off the floor for 6 minutes in Game 5.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 26, 2017
In those 6 minutes, the Rockets outscored the Thunder 27-9. pic.twitter.com/AicL24JgEd
Oklahoma City won just one game in the series, when many people expected it to be more competitive. In Game 4 there was a time when Westbrook sat, and that decision was questioned by a reporter after the game. You probably remember that exchange, because Westbrook's response to it (when the question was asked to Steven Adams) made headlines.
Westbrook averaged 38.8 minutes in the series, which is still high (seventh overall in the playoffs), but maybe if he had played just a few more minutes per game the Thunder would still be alive. The points scored with him on the court (plus-15) were dramatic when compared to him off (minus-58).
Lue was asked how many players can play 40-plus minutes without it significantly affecting their performance.
"I think a lot of guys are capable of doing that," he said. "A lot of guys are taking care of their body. NBA players are some of the best-conditioned guys in athletics, in their sport, so they can definitely do it. I think a lot of times coaches get sidetracked by what other guys, what the media said or whatever. But you just got to go off what you feel, how the guys feel, how the players feel and what your team needs at this time. So, if Bron plays 46 minutes and [Kyrie Irving] plays 45 minutes and we win, then it's worth it. And if we need them to play that many minutes to win in the playoffs, then it's absolutely worth it."
Thunder coach Billy Donovan was asked about managing Westbrook's minutes in the playoffs and said he wanted to play him more. While the guard did average more than he did in the regular season (34.6) it wasn't a huge increase.
Maybe Donovan now wishes he had played Westbrook a little more, but of course hindsight is 20/20.