Was Cavs’ Defense Better Than You Think Vs. Pacers?

The Cleveland Cavaliers wrapped up another first round sweep in the NBA Playoffs, taking care of the Indiana Pacers in just four games.

It was the 10th sweep in LeBron James’ great career and he has now won 21 consecutive first round games.

The Cavs had defensive issues throughout the regular season and the analytics had Tyronn Lue’s squad as the third worst in defensive efficiency in the four game sweep.

Statistics have the Pacers having the shortest distance per field goal attempt of the 16 playoff teams, showing Indiana didn’t have much of an issue getting into the paint.

On the other hand the wine and gold’s field goal percentage against ranked in the bottom of the top half (7th) of the teams that qualified for the playoffs.

Cleveland did some good things against the Pacers, though.

Although Paul George averaged 28.0 points per game in the sweep, he did it by volume shooting.  A 46% shooter in the regular season, the Pacers’ star shot just 38.6% against the Cavaliers, as Lue threw several defenders at George, including JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, with James helping on double teams.

And the All Star really struggled from the middle of game three throughout the completion of the series.

The other player the coach mentioned in terms of limiting before the series was C. J. Miles, who torched the Cavs in the regular season for 17.0 points per contest.

Miles was stifled by the Cavaliers, scoring just 7.3 points per game in the series, and he shot just 31% from three point range.

Lue’s defensive philosophy is to identify the opponent’s strengths and try to take them away.  It seems he did just that against the Pacers in this series.

In order to do that, the coach is willing to give something up, and to this point, it’s hard to argue with his success.

So basically, if the Pacers were going to emerge victorious, it was going to have to be because Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner, and Lance Stephenson had huge performances.

Those four combined for 56 points per game on 49% shooting.

However, out of those four players, only Stephenson, who played only six games for Indiana this season, has the personality to be the lead dog.  The rest are complementary players, forced into a big spot.

Not everybody can handle that situation.

That’s Lue’s philosophy, but opposing players into situations that they aren’t comfortable in.

As the playoffs go on, it will be more difficult to do this because the better teams have better options and more players capable of producing under the bright lights of the post-season.

Luckily for the Cavs, they have veterans who have stepped up in these situations throughout their careers.  Channing Frye was huge a year ago for the Cavs.  Two years ago against Atlanta on the road, the wine and gold won because Smith got hot in game one.

One of the new veterans acquired by GM David Griffin had a huge impact in this series, and that is Deron Williams.

Williams seemed to not be sure of how he fit when he first arrived in Cleveland, but he gave Lue some very good minutes in the second half of game three and in the second quarter of the deciding game.

There is no question that Cavs can be better on defense than they were vs. the Pacers, but they did accomplish some of the things they set out to do in the series.  That’s something to watch in round two.

JK

 

 

 

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