After he benched Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in the fourth quarter of the Cavs' 119-114 come-from-behind win Thursday, Lue was annoyed with how the lineup change was framed as Lue seeking "permission" from his two All-Stars to keep them out while Deron Williams and Channing Frye closed out the game.
"That was the craziest thing I've ever seen," Lue said of the coverage, without mentioning specific publications or shows. "A grown man asks somebody permission to do something, I never understood that. They always make a story out of something when it comes to us."
Cleveland leads the series 3-0.
Lue held separate conversations with Love and Irving as Frye and Williams helped finish off the Cavs' comeback. Cleveland outscored Indiana 35-23 in the fourth quarter, when Frye had 11 points and Williams had two points, one assist, one block and no turnovers.
Some ESPN platforms characterized the conversations as Lue seeking the players' permission, but Lue said the purpose of the communication with Love and Irving was to keep the stars engaged.
"In case we need them," Lue said of the conversations. "In case we need those guys. Checking in on them, making sure they're fine and staying in tune with the game in case we need them. But to ask permission is stupid."
Lue spoke up when asked if he was tempted to pull all his starters even earlier in the second half and concede the game -- Cleveland trailed by as many as 26 -- in the same manner that Gregg Popovich did in the third quarter of the San Antonio Spurs' Game 3 blowout loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
"I wonder if he had permission," Lue said with a sarcastic laugh. "Pop's the greatest, so he can do whatever he wants to. He's done it before. He has a great feel for his team. His team respects him. Whatever he does, they respect that. My team here, they respect me. Whatever decision I make, they respect it.
"When I say, 'Kevin, I had to ask you, could I bench you?' They were saying, 'S---, get out of here, man. You know you didn't do that. You didn't want to put us back in in the first place.' But I mean, to ask for permission? That's crazy."
Love said he could empathize with Lue's frustration with the situation.
"The bench was rolling, so we had no problem with it," Love told ESPN on Saturday after the Cavs finished practice at the famed Hinkle Fieldhouse on Butler University's campus. "We knew that that would be the conversation [in the media]. Yeah, of course. You come to expect it at this point. That's just one of those things. But we don't care. We did what we needed to do to win the game, and that group was awesome. We were way more happy for the guys that did their thing."
Love was asked if being benched in Game 3 could motivate him further for Sunday's potential series-closeout opportunity in Game 4.
"No," Love told ESPN. "That's silly. If anything, we look at it like that was great for that second unit and those guys stepping up for us. It will give them a lot of confidence, give us a lot of confidence in all sorts of positions and situations that they can help us win. If they can do that, then now we got to go out with the first unit, especially in the first half, and play better."
When Lue was finished talking about the subject with reporters, he remained indignant about the media's characterization, saying to a member of the Cavs' public relations staff, "Listen, our guys that are out there are in the middle of a 25-3 run, but can I please keep them in the game? Do I have your permission?"
Frye, Williams and Kyle Korver, who form the core of the Cavs' bench, scored 22 of their 30 combined points in the second half as the Cavs erased a 25-point deficit at the break. It was the largest halftime comeback in NBA playoff history.
"It wasn't about Kyrie or Kevin," Lue said. "It was about D-Will, Korver and Channing and how well they played. They were playing great, that unit was going well, and Kevin and Kyrie, they understood. No, I didn't ask those guys for permission to sit them out, but I did want to keep those guys engaged just in case we needed them down the stretch, because D-Will played, I think, 15 or 16 minutes straight. Kyle Korver played 15 or 16 minutes straight ... so just considering the game and how it was going, just had to check on those guys and make sure they stayed engaged into the game in case we did need them."