Our initial reaction after the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night was they looked like they had never played with each other before.
Which, of course, is true.
Think about it, Derrick Williams has been with the team for about three weeks, Deron Williams about two. Kyle Korver has been with the wine and gold since early January (he didn’t play on Thursday), so he’s never been on the floor as a teammate of JR Smith, who missed two and a half months with a thumb injury.
This presents a problem offensively, as Deron Williams learns where the rest of the players like to get the ball so they can score.
And as great as LeBron James is, and as much as he studies his teammates as well as opponents (remember how he told us we watched tape of Korver to see where he likes to catch the ball), even he admitted last night how tough this year has been with all the comings and goings due to roster moves and injuries.
There have been too many games recently where the James and Kyrie Irving are scoring almost half of the Cavs’ points.
Anyone still want to tell us how Kevin Love isn’t important to this team?
Love is a guy who is scoring more than 20 points per game, and in addition to that, is a huge factor on the defensive boards. Anyone else notice the increasing amount of offensive rebounds the Cavaliers are giving up?
It is even a bigger problem defensively. On that side of the ball, there is a great deal of trust, knowing you can pass an opponent off to another member of the Cavs, but you have to know they are going to be there.
Think about what Tyronn Lue has had to do on the fly.
He got Korver basically to replace Smith when he went down, and although Korver isn’t a horrible defender, he tries to hide his lack of quickness with knowing where to be, he isn’t as good a defender as Smith, who emerged last year as very good on that end of the floor.
Love isn’t an elite defender, but he is better than most people think, but replacing him in the starting lineup with Channing Frye is a large drop off in defense. The wine and gold’s defensive rating takes a huge hit when Frye is on the floor.
Another issue with Love being out is that it has taken a toll on the Cavs’ chief interior defender, Tristan Thompson.
Thompson seems to be getting worn down as the season has progressed, having to battle opposing big men basically by himself over the past few weeks.
No doubt this was the biggest reason Andrew Bogut was signed, and also that it appears Larry Sanders will be inked to a deal in the coming week.
Smith is back now, and hopefully Korver’s foot won’t cause him to miss too many more games.
Love should back soon as well, perhaps in about 2 weeks.
Getting everyone back, and getting some extra practice time before the playoffs begin could be the biggest remedy for the defensive issues the team has had.
They need to play and practice together to get the trust back on the defensive end of the floor. That should greatly decrease the glaring breakdowns when the opponents have the ball.
With all of the shuffling on who is and isn’t available on a nightly basis, something is going to suffer, and it’s usually defense.
When that improves, this team will be very difficult to beat.