CLEVELAND – The Rockets and Cavaliers went into Saturday’s game similarly planning to rotate different defenders on the star scorers, LeBron James and James Harden. But Cavs coach Tyronn Lue and Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni cited very different reasons for similar plans.
The Cavs hoped that going against many defenders throughout the game would help keep Harden from getting too comfortable. The Rockets wanted to change defenders on James to keep Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker fresh enough to slow him.
“You have to show him different looks,” Lue said of Harden. “I don’t think you let a great player get comfortable, show him the same people. You got to mix it up, try to keep him off balance. But it’s not just a one-on-one challenge; it’s a team challenge.”
D’Antoni said players on that level often are not stopped no matter what a defense tries. But he said he would have used a variety of defenders on James even if Trevor Ariza, usually his first choice, were healthy and playing and that he would prefer mixing up assignments against other high scorers that do not pose the unique challenge of guarding James.
“I don’t know about seeing different things,” D’Antoni said. “You just have to rotate them because you get worn out (or in) foul trouble. You have to have two or three guys to defend him. Different guys may have different success on certain nights.
“You try everything, but whether James plays well or LeBron plays well, when superstars play well, it’s kind of how they play. You can throw the kitchen sink at them, they’re going to play well if it’s their night.”