clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NBA Finals 2015: Steve Kerr is coaching far beyond his years

We talk about the individual and team brilliance of the Warriors all the time, of course, but their head coach deserves plenty of the credit, too.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation's 2015 NBA Finals Guide

For the first time ever, two rookie head coaches are facing each other in the NBA Finals. David Blatt acts and talks the part with lackluster sideline interviews and sometimes strange mannerisms. He's a long-time manager in the European leagues and has proved his mettle during this finals run. But at times you can tell he's still learning the NBA. That's normal and natural.

On the other sideline is Steve Kerr, also a rookie coaching a finals team, yet he doesn't seem to have any of those educational moments Blatt runs into. His background helps -- 15 years as a player, eight as a broadcaster, three as a GM -- as does the coaching staff he has assembled around him. That includes, Alvin Gentry, who just filled the best head coaching vacancy in the NBA.

That all helps, but in the middle of it all is the breezy, collected Californian who seems to control everything around him like a yoyo -- all it takes is a flick of the wrist to send it the opposite direction.

In the biggest game of his young coaching career, Kerr changed the starting lineup of a 67-win team. And he didn't just "change" it -- he changed it. Andre Iguodala started for the first time this season and played 39 minutes while a benched Andrew Bogut garnered only three. Previously mothballed David Lee ran out there for 15.

Sticking with traditional norms is the safe move, but Kerr threw them to the wind. It's the same thing he did at the start of the season, when he sent Iguodala to the bench as a supersub sixth man and stored Lee away in the closet to start with. Those changes allowed the Warriors to ascend into an elite stratosphere this year, but now, the reverse was needed and Kerr saw the need for both players to resume their former roles.

Rick Carlisle famously inserted J.J. Barea into the starting lineup during the 2011 NBA Finals, a Game 4 move that certainly contributed to the turning tides. But, at least Carlisle was a long-time veteran coach at that point. Kerr is not.

Even 90 minutes before tip, Kerr told reporters his starting unit would remain the same. He fessed up to his lie and somehow turned the world on his side once again.

Kerr is a special coach and the adjustments he made on Thursday are years ahead of his experience level. We haven't even mentioned other important changes, like picking on Dellavedova with Stephen Curry and sending calculated double teams against James while still denying the first pass. This is why Cleveland has to be nervous in a 2-2 series -- Blatt is good and he's bound to get even better, but redesigning an attack against the Warriors feels a little bit out of his control.

If you're looking for a transcendent talent in Golden State, Curry and Klay Thompson immediately fit the description. But don't forget Kerr, either -- the man who bound together the NBA's best team and engineered a win in the franchise's most important game.

3 other things we learned

LeBron James couldn't do it for a fourth straight game. James scored the most points in NBA history through three finals games, but he's clearly burning himself out in the process. On Thursday, with Iguodala matching him from the opening tip, James had an "ordinary" game of 20 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. How dreadful.

But as we know, the Cavaliers need him at uberBron levels to win this series. Every minute he was off the floor was a painful one for Cleveland. We may have never had a player this good being helped by so little in a playoff series as important as this. What comes next is anyone's guess.

What is Andrew Bogut's role going forward? After talking about Kerr, it's clear he won't stick with tradition. As mentioned, Bogut played just three minutes and they were three terrible ones at that.

At this point, it wouldn't be a shock if Bogut doesn't play the rest of the series. As long as the small lineup is working and Timofey Mozgov is eating Bogut alive, why bother? Small ball won Game 4 and small ball will win the Warriors the series if they keep playing it like they did on Thursday. Bogut doesn't fit in this series and there's no room for a hindrance on the floor when you're two games away from a NBA championship.

Cleveland didn't have it. If we can excuse part of Golden State's losses for poor shooting and argue that regression to the mean was coming, then you have to do the same for Cleveland. A J.R. Smith game still has to be coming, right? The type of game where every shot he throws up goes in? The Cavaliers shot 4-of-27 from behind the arc, and without better success there James is hopelessly stranded on this island with nothing but a finals loss awaiting him.

Play of the Night

Cleveland has "iced" Curry all series, pushing him towards the sideline with a double-team off of a pick-and-roll. Finally, the Warriors broke it fluidly, with an aggressive Draymond Green passing to Shaun Livingston down low, who in turn finds Iguodala in the corner for a triple. Four players, three passes, one dribble, three points. Beautiful.

6 fun things

Kanye West doesn't want you to know he's having fun. Ever.

This was a very good pass from LeBron James, who is very good.

CURSE WORDS GETTING CENSORED: "Mother------" and "bull----"


Matthew Dellavedova skipped his usual pregame coffee.

Steve Kerr lies to the media but he admitted to it so everything's cool now.

Final scores

Warriors 103, Cavaliers 82 (Golden State of Mind recapFear the Sword recapSB Nation recap)