Kyle Korver of Cleveland Cavaliers has role ‘thrown for a loop’ when Celtics bench Semi Ojeleye

NBA


BOSTON — Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens’ choice to not play Semi Ojeleye in the Celtics’ 96-83 Game 5 win over the Cavs in the Eastern Conference finals foiled his planned rotation for Kyle Korver.

“Well, initially, he’s been putting Ojeleye in,” Lue said of Stevens after the game Wednesday. “So that’s been kind of Kyle’s matchup when he comes in the game. He didn’t play him tonight, so it kind of threw us for a loop.”

Korver did not check into Game 5 until the start of the second quarter when Cleveland already trailed 32-19. The Cavs looked unbalanced on offense in the opening frame, with Kevin Love and LeBron James combining to score 18 of those points.

In Korver’s strong Game 4, when he scored 14 points on 4-for-7 shooting, he checked in with 2:45 remaining in the first quarter and helped extend Cleveland’s lead from nine when he came in to 16 heading into the second quarter, going 1-for-1 from the field with a blocked shot and a rebound.

Furthermore, when he checked in during Game 4, he was able to share the court with both James and Love to start — two players who draw a lot of attention from Boston’s defense — and was able to operate with more room as the third option.

When Korver first came in Wednesday, he was sharing the floor with James, like in Game 4, but the rest of the lineup was Jordan Clarkson, Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr.

While Korver scored all of his 14 points in the first half of Game 4 as Cleveland ran out to a 15-point lead at the half, he had just four points at halftime of Game 5 and the Cavs trailed by 11 at the break.

Korver finished Wednesday with seven points on 2-for-6 shooting in 19 minutes. He came into the game averaging 10.7 points and 25.1 minutes per game in the 2018 postseason.

Afterward, he was not asked about his adjusted role but did comment on a critical juncture in the fourth quarter when the Cavs had cut the Celtics’ lead to 12 with 7:50 remaining. But Korver, Clarkson and James combined to go 0-for-4 in the next four possessions while Boston went 0-for-2 with two turnovers and Cleveland couldn’t extend the run further.

“We drew up a play. I was supposed to be a decoy, and I was open,” Korver said of his missed 3 that was blocked by Jayson Tatum that started the cold streak. “I got the ball and got blocked, then they came down and scored and hit a couple of more shots. A couple of 3s didn’t go our way. Basketball’s a game of runs, and that’s a bad time to have a bad run.”

Ojeleye had played in the first four games of the series, averaging 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds in 13.3 minutes per game. In Game 4, however, he had a plus/minus of minus-14 in nine minutes.

Despite the Celtics’ success without the rookie Ojeleye in the rotation Wednesday, Stevens said he could go back to him this series.

“We believe in Semi and we think he’s a big, huge part of our team,” Stevens said. “It would not be a shock if he plays a ton for us in Game 6.”



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