INDIANAPOLIS -- A body wracked with injuries from his playing days -- three knee surgeries, two of them of the microfracture variety -- already had Tyronn Lue looking a bit like his former coach Phil Jackson on the sidelines for the Cleveland Cavaliers as he sat on a padded booster seat on top of his regular chair.
"That's why a lot of times on the bench, my knees, my legs are straightened a little bit," Lue explained Monday morning. "Sometimes they're bent because I can't keep them one way a long period of time."
Lue watched everything his team established in the first half -- active defense, an accelerated pace of play and a double-digit lead as a result of it all -- unravel in the first three minutes of the third quarter. An 11-point cushion dwindled down to one on George Hill's 3-pointer, made right in front of where Lue was sitting.
He could have sprung from his seat, burned a timeout right then and there and got into his guys about the first-half effort they had wasted with a lazy lull to start the third.
Instead, he continued to sit. Timeout? Nope. Time to play on.
"They was looking to me to bail them out," Lue said. "And I know I'm not in a position this early in my career, but I wouldn't call a timeout. And I wouldn't even look at them. I was like, ‘Y'all dug this hole, then get out of it.'"
It's the same tactic Jackson often employed, hoping the mutual experience of riding out a rough patch in a game would be something his players could lean on in the future when faced with adversity again.
"I know I ain't nowhere close to Phil, but that's something [from him]," Lue said. "You know, if we're going to play basketball the way we did in the third quarter, then we're not going to be able to beat teams. So I just wanted them guys to understand that and then figure it out. And then we kind of got it back in the fourth quarter."
The fourth wasn't perfect by any means, but when Cleveland found itself down by five with 6:49 remaining, there was no panic. The Cavs methodically worked their way back into it, with LeBron James (24 points), Kyrie Irving (25 points) and Kevin Love (19 points) setting up one another for crunch-time scores.
"He wanted us to figure it out," said Love, who also had one of his better defensive performances as a Cav with two blocks, two steals and a charge drawn. "He's been doing that. I know we've only had a little bit of practice time, but he puts us in situations where we have to think and we have to kind of be learning on the fly. And that doesn't just happen in games, but in game-type situations like this. It's part of us in the maturation process and growing up."
After giving up 30 points in the third quarter, the Cavs' defense allowed just 17 in the fourth. It was their offense that won it in overtime, with Irving and James running what Lue calls their "13 action" (standing for a 1-3 pick-and-roll). Irving had eight of his points in the extra session and an assist. James had four points.
And Love chipped in a big 3-pointer, created by the attention Irving and James caused.
"It's kind of one of our bread-and-butter plays if we know we need to get something and get something very good," James explained.
Yes, Cleveland did not look nearly as sharp as it did in its past four wins, as its offense started to grind to a halt in the second half. "We went back to our old habits of 1-on-1, holding the ball, dribbling around," Lue said.
To his point, in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter, the Cavs totaled just nine passes on 10 possessions. Yet, the end result was something the team could be proud of. The Cavs snapped a six-year losing streak in Indiana, earning the first win of Irving and Tristan Thompson's careers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
"Every game is going to be different and we have to be able to play different styles," James said. "We've shown we can play a fast-paced game. Tonight versus a division rival, a division game on the road, when it's not going as well as we would like, we have to be able to slow down and execute. We were able to do that."
And Lue, like the winningest championship coach in league history, was able to empower his team not through his words, but through his patience.
"That's him telling us to grow up," Thompson said. "I think it's just like when a father tells his son growing up when he's going through tough times, ‘Suck it up and pull your socks up and get it together.' I think that's the same kind of approach he has with us."
From playing faster to channeling the Zen Master, Lue's approach has the Cavs sitting pretty so far.