What Do Cavs Need To Do.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are down two games to none to Golden State in the NBA Finals, and many feel it is a foregone conclusion that the series will end quickly, with the same result as a year ago.

That’s the popular view.

On the other hand, the Cavs had an outstanding chance to win game one, until some questionable decisions, both by the wine and gold (JR Smith) and the officials, late led to an overtime loss, and really, on Sunday night, Cleveland still had a shot until Stephen Curry got hot in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors are shooting 54% from the floor in the first two games, compared to 43% for the Cavs, and based on that, you would think both games were blowouts.

This year’s games were decided by 10 (in overtime) and 19 points, compared to 22 and 19 a year ago.

Still, a few things need to be addressed for Cleveland.

First, the switching defense was horrible in game two.  There were far too many instances of Kevin Durant being guarded by Smith and George Hill, and Curry being checked by Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr.

We have said it all year.  Switching is lazy and it allows the offense to dictate who is guarding who.  The Cavs themselves like nothing more than to see Curry matched up with James.

The Cavaliers have to try something different and cannot allow wide open layups and dunks off the high pick and roll.  We say this knowing this has been a weakness all season long, so it will be difficult to improve at this stage of the game.

In terms of the players coach Tyronn Lue is using, it may also be time for some alterations.

Smith continues to struggle with his shot, hitting just 5 of 19 shots from the field, and just 3 of 10 from distance.  Although we have buried Rodney Hood recently, it may be time to see if he can provide some energy and shot making.

Jordan Clarkson is another who looks like the moment is too much for him.  He’s also not shooting well (3 for 13), and seems to be playing over 100 miles per hour when the game is being played at 60 MPH.

And Kyle Korver is struggling much like he did a year ago in the Finals.  It seems like the Warriors are long enough to contest his long range shots, and they are also doing what the Cavaliers did to him when he played for Atlanta.

They aren’t leaving him open.

The Cavs shot 37% from three in the regular season, they are making just 30% in the first two games of the series.  They need to find someone to make shots.  Only James and Hill have made more than 30% in The Finals.

It is also time for Cleveland to get more physical.  Golden State has collected ten more fouls in the series than the Cavs (they have probably really committed 30 more, but that’s another story), so Lue’s group needs to make their presence felt.

Don’t be afraid to play a little bump and grind with Curry, Klay Thompson, and Durant.  Because of the overtime game, this trio along with Draymond Green are averaging 40 minutes per game.

Make an effort to wear down the Warriors, and do a better job attacking players with foul issues.  Durant picked up two in the first quarter on Sunday, and it seemed like Cleveland did not attack him.

Obviously, the Cavs need to win Wednesday night and get back in the series, going down 0-3 means it is over for all intent and purposes.

It is not the time for out and out loyalty based coaching.  If guys aren’t getting it done, you have to try someone else.

A win in Game 3 puts the Cavs back in the series.  No question about that.

JK

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Cavs and Lue On The Brink?

For the second time this playoff season, the Cleveland Cavaliers face a win or go home scenario, trailing the Boston Celtics three games to two in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

Besides all of the stuff surrounding LeBron James’ free agency at the end of the season, another person should be considered as if they are spending their last days in the organization.

We are speaking about coach Tyronn Lue.

It is no secret that Lue has had health issues this past season, heck, he missed nine games late in the year because of them.  We would not be surprised if regardless of the result of tonight’s game or this series, or The Finals, if Cleveland can win the next two games, that Lue does not return as coach of the Cavaliers next season.

We may simply decide he’s either had enough of being a head coach in the NBA or that he needs to take a year or two off before trying again.

The head coach said yesterday that he doesn’t worry about what doesn’t work after a loss.  If he’s not lying to the media, then he might be the first coach who doesn’t.

All coaches think about what didn’t work after a loss, and what they could do differently to achieve a winning result.  It’s the nature of the job.

However, for tonight’s game, Lue cannot be display the patience he has used toward his veteran players who haven’t been producing in this series.  There is simply no tomorrow if you lose tonight.

In game five, JR Smith and Jeff Green played 51 combined minutes and basically gave the team nothing on the offensive end.  Yes, Boston only scored 96 points, which is second lowest of the series, but the Cavaliers only scored 83, tying what they tallied in Game 1.

Both players have been outscored by Tristan Thompson, hardly an offensive force, in the series, and Smith ranks behind Jordan Clarkson, who has mostly been dreadful throughout these playoffs.

Smith ranks 4th in minutes in the conference finals, while Green is 6th.  Both have played more minutes than Kyle Korver, who we can all agree has been one of the Cavs’ five best players in the series, and Larry Nance Jr., who has played well vs. the Celtics too.

FYI, Smith has the worst shooting percentage (23.1%) for any Cavaliers in the series.  And that includes the guys who have only played in garbage time.

Green can help, but Lue has leaned on him far too heavily throughout the playoffs.  And the expectation that he will be a good three point shooter is ridiculous.  By the way, he’s 2 for 9 from distance in this series.

If either player doesn’t have it early tonight, Lue has to make a difficult decision to try something else.  Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t, but Smith and Green have had their chances.  It might be time to see what Cedi Osman can do, or put Jose Calderon out there for a bit.

We are also tired of hearing how it is Kevin Love’s fault for the Cavs being down in this series.

Has Love played great?  No, but he still leads Cleveland in rebounds at 11.0 per game, and is the second leading scorer at 15.0.  His shooting has been off, but there have been reports that he reinjured his thumb in the series.

He’s not the reason Cleveland is on the brink of elimination.

With a win or go home game, this is not the time for the coach to be exercising patience.  He has to look at players with a +, 0, – attitude.  Guys who are being a minus should be taken out.

The Cavs and the coaching staff have to figure out a way to get this series back to Boston for a game seven.

JK

 

 

What Needs To Change In Game 2 For Cavs?

Fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers should know better by now.  You cannot and should not overreact to a single game in the NBA playoffs.

If we would have told you before Sunday’s game one that Cleveland would shoot 36% from the floor, and go 4 of 26 from three point range, while the Celtics make 51% of their shots, we both would have predicted a 25 point loss in Beantown.

Then you add in Boston shooting 64.1% on contested shots, while the wine and gold made just 30% of wide open shots, and you can see why the Cavs weren’t really in game one.

Basketball is a funny game, we say this all the time.  A team can execute a play perfectly and the player who ends up with the ball misses the shot.  Conversely, you can be totally discombobulated offensively, and then a great player makes a contested shot.

That’s just the nature of the game.

What coaches and players do is try to even out the odds.  Normally, the percentages even out, and team make open shots and miss ones that are defended.

When it doesn’t work out that way, it is awfully frustrating to watch or play.

Could it happen again in game two?  Of course.  And if it does, all the Celtics have done is hold serve on their home court, and the Cavaliers can even it up and make it a best of three series by winning games three and four at Quicken Loans Arena.

We would doubt that Marcus Morris or Al Horford can play better tonight than they did in the first game, and we would also be surprised if LeBron James was as inefficient as he was on Sunday.

And quite frankly, we’d be more shocked if the wine and gold made just four three point shots.

This doesn’t mean that’s all it comes down to in tonight’s contest.  The Cavs have to show more fight, and they have to do a better job on Horford, who the Celtics use to facilitate the offense.

It appears Tristan Thompson will start in place of either JR Smith or Kyle Korver, to add some size to the lineup, and Thompson has done a good job of defending Horford in the past.

We would like to see more of Jordan Clarkson attacking the basket, not settling for mid-range jump shots.  And while Rodney Hood got credit for being okay in Game 1, we weren’t impressed.  Yes, he scored 11 points, but needed 12 shots to do so.

We also think it sends the wrong message, even in the playoffs, to put him out there after he refused to play in the series clincher vs. Toronto.

Cleveland needs to rebound better too, as they were outrebounded 48-40 on Sunday.  Jeff Green had one board, and Hood had none.  Both must do better.

There has to be better ball movement too.  The Cavs only had 18 assists, half of them by James.  Now, some of that is you can’t award an assist unless someone makes a shot, but the next highest assist total was by Kevin Love with three.

Game one was just a bad game for the Cavs.  If tonight’s game is similar, then there is reason for concern.  Even if that happens, it only means the wine and gold must win the next two at home.

JK

 

 

Cavs Still Need Some Players To Step Up

Basketball is a funny game.  We have always said that you can execute a play or a plan perfectly, but a player still has to make a shot.

Conversely, you can do everything wrong and somebody like JR Smith hits a seemingly impossible shot, and the team likes good.

In the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first round series against the Indiana Pacers, which went the full seven games, the wine and gold shot 43% from the floor, and 32.2% from three point range.

In the first two games of the conference semi-finals against Toronto, the Cavs have shot 48% from the floor, and 36.2% from behind the arc.  Is it just that simple?

Maybe.

Certainly, Indiana was much more physical with Cleveland, and until game seven, coach Tyronn Lue seemed hesitant to match that physicality by playing Tristan Thompson, who is one of only three truly big bodies on the roster.

Thompson started the ultimate game in the series, scoring 15 points and 10 rebounds, and the Cavs have looked like a different team.

He has averaged 8 points and 7 rebounds in 21 minutes in the series vs. the Raptors.

Of course, it also helps to have the best player in the world, one Mr. LeBron James.

All he has done in nine post-season games this season is average 34.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 9 assists, and dominated the three games (Game #2, Game #4, and Game #7) where his teams’ back was to the wall.

Oh yeah, he’s also playing 42 minutes per game at age 33.

In the first round series, save for Kyle Korver, James had little help against the Pacers.  Kevin Love was the only other player to average double figures (11.4), but that was more than six points less than his regular season average.  Love also shot just 33% from the floor compared to 45.8% during the 2017-18 campaign.

Even though it is just two games, Cleveland has five players scoring ten or more points against the Raptors.  Besides James (34.5), the Cavs also have big offensive contributions from Love (19.0), Smith (17.5), Jeff Green (15.0), and Korver (12.0).

And we didn’t mention another player having a big impact in George Hill.  Hill missed three games against Indiana in round one, and didn’t play in Game 7 until the second half because of back spasms.

Hill provides solid defense and another ball handler to initiate the offense for Lue.

Certainly, Smith shooting 58% from the field and going 7 of 9 from three, and Green making three quarters of his shots from the floor and knocking down 5 of 7 from beyond the arc probably isn’t sustainable.

But if Love continues to play (read: make shots) like yesterday, that duo’s likely cool down won’t hurt as badly.

Still, at some point, Lue will need Jordan Clarkson or Rodney Hood to make some shots.

Clarkson has made just 17 of 52 shots (32.7%) and has hit just 4 of 20 threes.  And if take out his Game 4 performance vs. the Pacers, his only really good game in the post season, those numbers drop to 12 of 43 (28%) and 2 of 17 from three.  One of those threes was in garbage time last night.

Clarkson is capable of turning a game around with his scoring, and something tells me he will be needed to do just that in the next two games at Quicken Loans Arena.

Hood shot just 26% from three last year in the playoffs compared to 37% in the regular season, and has made just 2 of 14 this season.  He needs to step up offensively too.

If the Cavs just hold serve at home, they will advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the fourth straight season.  However, we doubt in will be easy.  Toronto is a quality team.

However, the Raptors are faced with having to win four of the next five games, with three of those being in Cleveland.

We don’t think the Cavs will rest on their accomplishments in the first two games.

JK

The Remarkable Mr. James Strikes Again

For all the frustration Cleveland Cavaliers fans have had in the regular season since winning the NBA title in 2016, this first round series against the Indiana Pacers may top all of it.

The wine and gold took a 3-2 series lead in the best of seven series thanks once again to the heroics of LeBron James, the sport’s preeminent player.

James won the game with a three pointer at the buzzer.  He did that after playing 41 minutes, scoring 44 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and somehow had eight assists, even though for the most part, his teammates couldn’t make a shot.

The Cavs shot just 41.3% for the game, and if you take away James’ 14 of 24 from the floor, they were under 34% on the night.

It makes the assist total even more impressive when all of the other Cavs besides James combined to make 17 shots.

We are sure in his heart of hearts, James is thanking Kyle Korver, who hit two huge threes in Game 4 to help tie the series, and last night was the only Cavalier who could seemingly make a shot, scoring 19 points on 6 of 11 shooting, including 5 of 9 from beyond the arc.

Take Korver out of the mix, and the rest of the Cavs knocked down just 11 field goals in 40 attempts.  That’s 27.5%!

JR Smith made as many shots as we did, but he harassed the Pacers’ Victor Oladipo into a 2 for 15 night, as part of a gritty defensive effort by Tyronn Lue’s team, particularly in the third quarter when Cleveland outscored Indiana 32-17 to turn a seven point halftime deficit into an eight point lead heading to the fourth quarter.

Outside of game one, when Indiana recording an 18 point win, the other four games have been decided by three, two, four, and three points.

That’s a close series.

And when a series is that close, the determining factor is usually in favor of the team with the best player, and that would be the Cavs, who also became the first team in the series to win two straight games.

James is averaging 34.8 points per game on 55% shooting, and has also made 47 of 57 free throws, as he is constantly attacking the basket.

He’s given the team a lead in the series heading into game six, despite Kevin Love shooting under 33% during the first five games, and the entire rest of the team shooting under 40% (39.3%) in this playoff season.

Love did play a solid defensive game, particularly on the perimeter, where he isn’t supposed to be able to stop anyone.

Besides Love, no other Cavalier is averaging more than 10 points per game, and Love is at just 11.8, although Korver is close at 9.8 per contest.

They are leading despite their starting point guard, George Hill, missing the last two games, and not being able to finish two others.

The three young players acquired at the trade deadline are combining to score just 17.4 points, and Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson have hit just 23 of 55 shots (42%) from the floor.

You have to think at some point, the shots will start to fall.  We don’t believe these guys are that bad.

Despite all that, the Cavs can eliminate the Pacers and advance to the second round Friday night in Indianapolis.  And they are in that position because they have the best player in the world.

Last night was just another reminder of that.

JK

Cavs Win, But Look Shaky In Doing So.

Many people around northeast Ohio, and national pundits too, had it as a foregone conclusion that the Cleveland Cavaliers would win the Eastern Conference and return to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year.

Instead, they are lucky to head to Indiana with a split in the first round series after winning Game 2, 100-97 at Quicken Loans Arena.

And they needed a virtuoso performance by LeBron James to do it.

James had 46 points (on 17 of 24 shooting), 12 rebounds and five assists, scoring the Cavs’ first 16 points helping Cleveland have a 33-18 lead after the first quarter.

The Pacers spent the rest of the night slowly but surely getting back in the game, but came up just short.

Still, if you are a fan of the wine and gold, you can’t be feeling all warm and fuzzy after this one.  Only two other Cavaliers, Kevin Love (15 points) and Kyle Korver (12) finished in double figures as coach Tyronn Lue used a series of odd lineups in this one.

First, Lue changed the starting lineup, but went smaller, going with JR Smith, Korver, and George Hill with James and Love.

It worked in the first quarter because James went berserk offensively and Victor Oladipo picked up two quick fouls and missed much of it.

But Lue’s move, as is most of his strategy benefits the team on the offensive end, and he continues to ignore the defensive side of the game.

Once the Pacers’ star got back in the game, it became one as for the second straight game, Cleveland struggled to contain him and his backcourt mate, Darren Collison, as the duo combined for 38 points on 16 of 29 shooting.

The Pacers started getting back in the game by using Myles Turner inside (18 points on 7 of 12 from the floor), but the Cavs seemed content to allow this as their two legitimate inside defenders, Tristan Thompson most notably, did not play.

Have you ever seen a team give up so many open layups in the half court game than the Cavaliers?

Hill got into foul trouble as well, although he played well, but the coach allowed him to pick up his fifth foul late in the third quarter instead of sitting him after his fourth.  Jordan Clarkson and Jose Calderon replaced him, but weren’t effective, so Cleveland played much of the fourth quarter without a legitimate point guard on the floor.

Larry Nance played 24 minutes, the only member of the bench to play more than 20, and he took just one shot and had five rebounds.

The Cavs were at home and their bench played tentatively, what is going to happen when they visit Indianapolis?

Rodney Hood hit a couple of shots in the first half, but after intermission lost the ball twice trying to dribble.  Clarkson isn’t playing with the confidence he showed after coming to Cleveland, and the Pacers made runs when Calderon was in the game.

Right now, the offense and defense seem to be disjointed, the Cavs play like there is no philosophy or structure on either end of the floor.  We understand the roster upheaval and injuries have led to constant changes in who is playing, but what does it say that the wine and gold don’t have a system to fall back on?

If the Cavs want to advance to the next series, they will need someone besides LeBron James to start playing at peak efficiency.  Right now, with the system the team is playing with, we aren’t sure that can happen.

JK

 

 

 

 

 

The Toughest Road For Cavs Yet?

The NBA playoffs start this weekend with the Cleveland Cavaliers taking on the Indiana Pacers in the first round for the second consecutive season.

Unlike last year though, these Cavs are not the defending NBA champions, and personnel wise they are a much different squad than a year ago.

That’s why we are very interested, and a but unsure as to how this playoff run will play out or ultimately end.

They no longer have Kyrie Irving, their second best player a year ago, and a guy capable of taking over a game scoring the ball.

There are only five players left from last season.  LeBron James and Kevin Love are the mainstays, players who Tyronn Lue has to know what he will get on a night in, night out basis.

Two of the other three, JR Smith and Tristan Thompson have been wildly inconsistent all season, and the latter may not see a lot of playing time in the playoffs this season.

The fifth player in Kyle Korver, a professional shooter who can change a game with his three point accuracy, but no one, except perhaps Lue, is sure how he will be used in the playoffs.

The trades made at the deadline, while needed to revive what had become a team in the doldrums, also brought mostly players who are unproven in the playoffs.

George Hill is the lone experienced player, having been in 83 playoff contests, and has been on two squads which went to the conference finals.

Yes, the Cavs have James, the ultimate equalizer.  And they have Love, who has scored 15.5 points and grabbed 9.4 rebounds in three years of post-season play.

Other than that, what else can Lue’s crew hang their hats on during a playoff run?

Defensively, they are improved since the deals, but still rank 29th (out of 30) in defensive efficiency, so they will have to outscore their opponents.

They are capable of that, ranking 5th in the NBA in offensive ratings, but as the old saying goes, defense shows up every night.  The question is, will the shooting?

The playoffs are different.  Just ask Rodney Hood, who shot 42.4% from the field, and 38.9% from three during the regular season last year with Utah, but shot 35.2% from the floor (26% from behind the arc) in two post-season series for the Jazz.

Remember that two key members of the rotation, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., have never played beyond the regular season.  Clarkson has provided instant offense off the bench since arriving here, but will it carry over starting this weekend?

Who will step up to help James and Love with the scoring load?  Will Hill be a reliable option?  Will Smith return to the form of the previous playoff runs (he has shot much better since the first of March)?  Has Hood learned from last year? Or will veteran Jose Calderon be a bigger contributor than anyone could have imagined when he was signed last summer?

Regardless, this will be the toughest playoff test for the Cavs since James came back to the wine and gold.  There is that much uncertainty.  Maybe we will have a better answer after the first series, but right now the only thing to really bank on for this team is the presence of James.

But since we are talking about the sport’s best player, that may be enough.

JK

Players & Coach Need To Keep Adjusting For Cavs

If you understand the game of basketball, you can understand that the Cleveland Cavaliers are going through some growing pains.

After the fast start when the four new players showed up after the trading deadline, the wine and gold have split their first quartet of games following the all star break, and one of the wins was a close one over the lowly Brooklyn Nets.

Not only are the players getting to know each other, but Tyronn Lue also is going through an adjustment as to how George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr. fit with the holdover Cavaliers.

One thing that continues to be an issue for the Cavs are slow starts, they have been struggling in the first quarter during the last three contests.  The problems have a lot to do with the personnel that starts the game.

In the first game after the break, Cleveland led Washington after one, 31-22, with JR Smith leading the way with 9 points.

Unfortunately, in the last three games, the Cavaliers trailed by seven, five, and four points after the first quarter respectively.

Smith has scored 11 points TOTAL, in those three games.  Could we make a case that the key in the first quarter is JR Smith?

The bigger issue here is that Smith, who has always been streaky, isn’t having hot streaks with the regularity he had earlier in his career.

So when you have Smith, Tristan Thompson, and Cedi Osman in the starting lineup, there is a real possibility you will not be getting anything offensively out of this trio, and that’s a problem.

That’s why Lue needs to balance out his starting lineup with a more accomplished offensive player.  We would recommend moving Rodney Hood to the first unit.

Hood would also give the first unit more length, and more versatility on the offensive end.  Smith is more of a three point specialist, while against Brooklyn, we saw Hood attacking the basket, taking just one three point shot.

Nance’s tendency to pick up fouls is the reason to keep Thompson opening the game, although it seems the latter’s offensive game has regressed since last season.  If starting Thompson means ending the game with Nance, we are all for it.

As for Osman, he will go to the bench when Kevin Love is ready to play, but somehow Lue needs to keep giving him playing time because as his defensive versatility.

The rookie has been guarding the opponent’s best player, regardless of what position, at the start of games, so the coaching staff has confidence in him on that end of the floor.

If that would happen, who would be the odd man out in the rotation?  As weird as it sounds, it could either be Smith or another veteran, Kyle Korver.

When Korver is hot, it is a thing of beauty.  He can turn a game around by himself.  However, his shooting is the extent of value.  His defense should keep him off the floor in close games when stopping the opponent is important.

The reason the newcomers stand out is they are multi-dimensional.  Players like Thompson, Smith, and Korver do one thing well, and that’s Lue dilemma, finding the right time to use them.

That’s what the last 22 games should be about, finding balance for the ten players in the rotation, so the lulls that occur within a game are minimal if they can’t be avoided.

JK

 

New Cavs Are Exciting and Help Team, But…

There is tremendous excitement in Cleveland about the revamped Cavaliers.  They went from a team that appeared would be lucky to win one series in the Eastern Conference playoffs to the favorite again for many experts.

The Cavs still have the best player in the league in LeBron James, and eventually Kevin Love will return to the lineup, giving Tyronn Lue another scorer and three point shooting threat.

The wine and gold have now surrounded James with a cadre of three point marksmen, players like Rodney Hood, JR Smith, George Hill, Kyle Korver, along with Love.  All of them are shooting over 35% from behind the arc this season.

Those shooters provide driving lanes for Jordan Clarkson, Cedi Osman, and James to draw defenders so those shooters can get wide open looks.

Talk about success in the playoffs though is premature because outside of Hill, the newest Cavaliers have limited experience in the post-season.

In fact, Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. have never been in the playoffs, nor has Osman, who is a rookie.

Hood played 11 games last season, averaging 8.9 points and shooting 35.2%, (26% from three) from the floor, compared to his regular season numbers of 12.7 points per game, and shooting percentages of 40.8% and 37.1% from distance.

It’s a different game in the post-season because opponents prepare for what you do well, and trying to take it away.

This isn’t to say Hood won’t make adjustments or won’t learn from his experience a year ago and be better.  Nor does it mean Clarkson and Nance’s performance will drop from the regular season because it is their first shot in the playoffs.

One thing in the Cavs’ favor is their major competition in the East isn’t exactly overflowing with post-season experience. Boston has Jaylen Brown, who wasn’t a featured performer a year ago (12 minutes per night), and Jayson Tatum, who is a rookie.

Toronto has more experience, but their bench, which has received glowing reviews for their success this year, doesn’t.

Plus, the Raptors and Celtics still have the same issue they have had over the past three seasons:  They have no one to match up with LeBron James.

We understand finding players to can slow down James isn’t easy, but you need guys with size and experience.  Young players who haven’t done it before have issues matching up to the speed and strength of playoff LeBron.

Don’t forget, the Cavs still have players who have been through the playoff wars with three straight trips to The Finals in Love, Smith, and Tristan Thompson, and Hill, who has played in 83 playoff games, making two appearances in the conference finals.

Hopefully, they can show the new guys the ropes, like James did in his first year back in Cleveland, when really only he and Smith had playoff experience among the guys getting the most playing time.

By the time they get to the conference finals, we will know how the newest Cavs have responded to the post-season.  More importantly, Lue and James will know who they can trust during these important games.

Getting to the playoffs is a first step, and securing a good seed helps too, although home court isn’t as critical to the Cavs with James leading the way.

The newest Cavs will help with both of those things, but until we see Hood, Nance, Clarkson, and Osman play effectively in the playoffs, there will be some hesitation in believing the wine and gold can get back to The Finals.

JK

 

Lue Reaching The Loyalty Vs. Stubbornness Line

One of the toughest things for someone in charge of a sports team is recognizing when it is time to replace a veteran player.

Likewise, it is difficult to see when a plan of attack you have used for years needs to be changed.

The greatest coaches/manager understand that.  They see what kind of talent they have on the roster, and use it to the best advantage.

Bill Belichick famously released Bernie Kosar when he was coaching the Browns because he saw that the quarterback was not the same player as he was when he took the team to three AFC title games in four seasons.

The great coaches think totally with their head and take emotion out of the equation.

That’s what Tyronn Lue seems to be facing right now.

Since he was elevated to the head coaching position in 2015-16, the Cavaliers defensive rating has slowly decreased.  The wine and gold are currently 29th (out of 30) in defense in the NBA.

Lue was in charge of the defense during the first run to The Finals for the Cavs (2014-15), but when he got promoted, he brought Mike Longabardi in to run the defense.

Longabardi has good credentials.  He was on the Boston Celtics’ staff with Lue under Doc Rivers from 2007-13, and the Celts were one of the league’s best defensive teams.

He went to Phoenix from there, and initially the Suns improved dramatically too, but they got worse from there, although to be fair, the Suns got younger in that three year span.

With the Cavs, the defense has never been as good as it was when Lue was running the show, and it has been reported that Lue provides more input once the playoffs start.

Whatever they are doing on that end of the floor, it isn’t working very well.  Yes, the Cavs are an older team, but over the years, younger players seem to have more of an issue on the defensive end than veterans.

Cleveland struggles in transition for sure, and we have said for the past two years that no team depends more on their offense for their defense than the Cavs.

However, the defensive issues have now gone on for two years.  Look at Jae Crowder, who was considered a solid defender with Boston in Brad Stevens’ system, which by the way, has also made Kyrie Irving better than he’s been in his career.

Crowder looks lost in Cleveland.  Did he forget to play defense as soon as he put on a Cavalier jersey?  We doubt it.  It’s just that the scheme the wine and gold is using is not effective.

Lue faces the same situation with players like JR Smith and Tristan Thompson.  Both were important cogs in the championship team of 2015-16, but they don’t look like the same players now.

Smith has dropped offensively and defensively from the past two seasons, and the changing game appears to be hurting Thompson, who isn’t as effective guarding smaller players on the pick and roll, and hasn’t been able to handle bigger players near the basket.

Right now, Lue seems reluctant to make changes in his playing rotation.  Cedi Osman seems to do well in limited minutes, but there are nights he doesn’t even play.

Smith and Crowder are two of the reasons the starting lineup is struggling.

Right now, Lue is being stubborn.  This isn’t a one week slump, the Cavs fortunes seemed to have changed when Thompson came back, and that’s been almost a month.

Luckily, there are still three months for the coach to turn things around.

JK