Previewing Cavs/Celtics

For the fourth consecutive season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, and for the second straight campaign, their opponent is the Boston Celtics.

There are similarities as to each team’s path to this point in the playoffs, as both the wine and gold and the Celts had first round series that went the full seven games, but it took Boston five games to win the second round series against Philadelphia, while the Cavs swept the top seeded Toronto Raptors.

Boston is missing their top two players in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, who missed the entire season after breaking his leg Opening Night in Cleveland.

The Celtics have been led in the post season by rookie Jayson Tatum, averaging 18.8 points per game, and third year pro Terry Rozier at 18.2.  And, of course, they have veteran big man Al Horford, who has been eliminated by the Cavs the past three season in the playoffs.

Boston has only played six players in every post-season game, but they do have Marcus Smart back after he missed the first four playoff contests.

Brad Stevens is considered the best coach in the NBA or at least in the top two (with Gregg Popovich) and his team was the best defensive team in the NBA during the regular season.

In the playoffs though, the Celts rank 11th out of the 16 playoff teams in defensive field goal percentage, and in terms allowing points, the Cavs have actually allowed fewer points per game than Boston.

The problem for Boston in last year’s series, won by the Cavs, four games to one, is the same problem much of the NBA has, they can’t stop LeBron James, who averaged 29.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 6.8 assists last year.

The big three of James, Irving, and Kevin Love all averaged more than 20 points per game.  Boston’s leading scorers were Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder, neither of whom are still with the team.

Remember, the Cavs won the four games last season by the following point totals:  13, 44, 13, and 33.

Stevens’ team is more athletic this season with Tatum, Rozier, and Jalen Brown, but they are less experienced, at least in terms of playing James in the playoffs.

In our opinion, Boston will probably try to be physical like Indiana had some success with in the first round.

But the wild card might just be George Hill for Cleveland.  Hill missed three and a half games in that series, and the Cavs are 6-2 this season in the playoffs when Hill plays.

The other problem Boston poses is they are versatile offensively.  Cavs’ coach Tyronn Lue likes to blitz certain players, much like they did against Victor Oladipo in the Pacers’ series, and DeMar DeRozan vs. Toronto.

Who does Lue do that to with Boston?  Will be make Tatum the focus of the defensive scheme or will it be Rozier or Horford?

Will that offset the issue the C’s have in slowing down James?  As it has been said, the problem with guarding James is if you are big enough, you aren’t quick enough, and if you are quick enough, you aren’t big enough.

So, Stevens will probably use Marcus Morris in the Lance Stephenson role, that as an irritant to James, trying to frustrate him.

And as usual, the outside shooters for the Cavs will have to come through.  At least one of the shooters (Love, Kyle Korver, JR Smith) have to be hitting from outside to allow James room to operate in the paint.

Quite frankly, we were surprised with the ease in which the Cavaliers dispatched the Raptors, but we don’t feel that way with the Celtics.  In our opinion, Boston isn’t ready to win four games out of seven against Cleveland.

That would mean an 8th straight trip to the Finals for James, and a fourth consecutive trip for the Cavs.

JK

 

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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

Is Lue The Right Man For This Cavs’ Team?

As the Cleveland Cavaliers head into another “must win” game tonight against the Indiana Pacers, down 2-1 in the best of seven series, the heat is getting turned up on coach Tyronn Lue.

Many people, including us, have been critical of Lue’s substitution patterns and the wine and gold’s defensive scheme, which centers on having players who can defend multiple positions.

He has had problems incorporating the four players GM Koby Altman acquired at the trade deadline into the mix.  Outside of Larry Nance Jr., and we are stretching it with that, none of the new guys appear to know what they are supposed to do on a night in, night out basis.

However, when Lue took over the head coaching reins midway through the 2015-16 campaign, he took over a pretty much a veteran unit.

The only younger guy he inherited was Matthew Dellavedova, who was in his third NBA season, and was a backup point guard and defensive specialist.

Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and Iman Shumpert were in the fifth NBA seasons, and they all understood what their roles were.  Irving was the second option offensively, capable of explosive performances.

Thompson and Shumpert were defensive players based on hustle and grit.

The primary bench options on that team were veterans like Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye, and Mo Williams.

Lue’s biggest move upon taking over the team was to get them to play at a faster pace.  He famously said the Cavs were not in shape to play the up tempo game he wanted.

Now, switch to 2017-18, and the Cavaliers are a much different team.

Yes, there still is experience with James and Kyle Korver (15th season), JR Smith (14th),  Jose Calderon (13th), and Jeff Green and George Hill (10th), but after the deadline moves, there are also a lot of younger players in the rotation.

Nance is in his third year, while Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson are both in their fourth seasons, and of that trio, only Hood has been on a winning team prior to coming to Cleveland.

Cedi Osman is a rookie, and although he has shown promise that he can contribute to this team, the coaching staff seemed bothered by his presence, giving him real minutes only after the trade, and many times that was due to necessity.

What we are trying to say is Lue didn’t have experience as a head coach in developing young players, and that’s what was needed after Altman turned over the roster.

The coaching staff appears to be throwing these young players out there and seeing if they can figure it out, that doesn’t always work.

At least one media member has pointed out that the four new guys played better before the coaching staff started giving them instructions and direction.

Remember the two games right after the deals?  The road wins over Boston and Oklahoma City might have been the two best wins of the season for Cleveland.  The newcomers just went out and played basketball.

Even the veterans who started the season, save for Dwyane Wade, looked lost at times, not sure of what they were supposed to do.  Jae Crowder didn’t look remotely like the player he was in Boston, but he’s contributing for Utah right now.

NBA head coaches are used to change a team’s culture, which Lue was brought in to do in 2016.  Other times, they are needed to coach, to develop younger talent.  That’s wasn’t Tyronn Lue’s job when he took over.

But that’s what is needed now.

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

 

 

 

 

 

All Game 1 Loss Means Is Game 2 Is Must Win

Going into the Cavaliers’ first round series against the Indiana Pacers, our main thought was the unknown.  We had no idea if the Cavs would come out and play great, or if the moment would be too much for those players without a significant amount of playoff minutes.

It turns out the latter was more the truth than anything else.

Does this mean we think the Cavaliers are doomed to be eliminated in the first round this season?  No.  However, it does mean that they better win Wednesday night, because you can’t lose the first two and then go on the road.

First, the Cavs have to come out with a more aggressive mind set.  They were far too passive in the first quarter, and that stage was set by Tyronn Lue, and the team’s two best players, LeBron James and Kevin Love.

Love took just eight shots for the game, the same total as Rodney Hood, and just one more than Jeff Green, George Hill, and Larry Nance Jr.

And James didn’t attempt his first shot until the first quarter was almost over.

The coaching staff has to establish both of these guys right from the get go.  They are the primary scorers for the Cavaliers.

Prior to game one, we figured the Pacers would leave Green open and if he made open threes, it was something they would live with to slow down James driving to the basket.

Green wound up 0 for 7 from the floor, three of those misses from behind the arc, and the wine and gold didn’t seem to have a Plan B.  Of course, no one was shooting well from distance as Cleveland made just 8 of 34 attempts.

Which is another rub, quite frankly.

The Cavs like to shoot threes.  They attempted the 5th highest total in the NBA this season.  They are usually pretty proficient as well, ranking 6th in the league in three point percentage.

However, when the long distance shots aren’t falling, they don’t do anything to adjust, they just keep letting them fly.  In a game like Sunday’s, why not attack the basket more often?

No team in the NBA is more reliant on their offense for their defense than the Cavaliers.  And when they are missing threes, that leads to long rebounds, and in turn, that leads to fast break opportunities.

As we have seen over the last two seasons, the Cavs strength is NOT defending in transition.

A problem for Lue is reflected in this question:  Who is the Cavs’ third best player?

The fact there is no definite answer to this question makes it difficult in determining substitution patterns.  Is it Jeff Green, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr, George Hill?

When the trade were made in February, we are sure GM Koby Altman thought it would be Rodney Hood, but he has been hurt a lot, and has had a problem playing with a LeBron James led team when he has been available.

Who can Lue count on behind James and Love?  It makes it a problem in deciding the starters as well, because so many of the players very been inconsistent this season.

So, Lue usually makes his decision based on offense, which is why Green got the nod, presumably because he’s a better three point shooter than Nance or Tristan Thompson, and they want the floor spread for James.

As the old saying goes, defense is a constant.  Unfortunately, that’s not a good thing for Cleveland.  It also explains games like Sundays, though.

It’s not time for panic, but it is okay to be concerned.  The game one loss means Wednesday is as close to a must win game as an elimination contest.

That’s something we aren’t used to over the last four seasons.

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

Even The Best Coaches/Managers Aren’t Perfect.

Being a beat reporter for a professional sports team has to cause a lot of internal conflict.
You have a job to do and that is to present the facts regarding individual games, individual players, and the circumstances surrounding a professional sports entity.

If you are around the same group of people everyday for eight or nine months out of the year, you would be unbelievably callous if you didn’t develop some sort of relationship with players or coaches.

Assuming the person involved isn’t a first class jerk, you want them to do well, it’s just human nature.

Here is a fact.  There is no such thing as a perfect coach/manager.  Even the best of them have weaknesses, even though sometimes the beat writers don’t want to admit it.

For example, Terry Francona is recognized as one of baseball’s best managers, and rightfully so.  He’s won two World Series with Boston, including their first in 86 years, and took the Indians to another one.

It is one thing to guide the Red Sox, one of the sports’ big market teams to two pennants, but taking the small market Indians to one shows he is the real deal as a skipper.

We believe most baseball fans would agree there is no one they’d rather have managing the Indians, but that doesn’t mean every move Tito makes is the correct one.

Francona is famously patient, we have said at times this patience starts to become stubbornness.  That’s a fine line for every coach or manager.

In essence, they are the same as the beat writers.  They have been through successful seasons with the players and they want to give them the benefit of the doubt.  By this time, watching Tito for more than five years in Cleveland, we can usually tell what players will or will not get the benefit of the doubt in terms of playing time or pitching usage.

As for the Cavs, Tyronn Lue coached the Cavs to a world title in 2016.  He is a much better playoff coach, and does a good job designing plays after timeouts.

However, the Cavs’ defensive schemes in the regular season are atrocious.  Lue’s loyalty to Mike Longabardi should be called into question.  At least to the public, the coach continuously talks about pace, but never a defensive mindset.

Lue also is a loyalist, favoring the players who have won for him in the past.  JR Smith and Tristan Thompson have had tough years, but at least the former doesn’t seem to lose playing time.

Right now, it seems that no matter what the question is, the answer is Jeff Green.  Lue named him a starter for the rest of the regular season and playoffs the other day when he doesn’t even know the playoff match ups.

Lue’s other weakness to us is a feel for the game.  He stays too long with players who clearly do not have it on that day.  We aren’t talking about LeBron James or Kevin Love.  We are talking about the role players.  For example, if Jordan Clarkson doesn’t have it that day, he’s not making shots, then try someone else.

Even Hue Jackson, despite having the worst record in NFL history over the past two seasons has defenders in the media.  Again, Hue seems to be a good guy, but defending a 1-31 record should call credibility into question.

The point is even the best coaches or managers aren’t perfect.  Just because fans question these weaknesses, it doesn’t mean they want them fired.

We also understand the world of social media has people who fire Francona or Lue each and everyday.

We know it can be tough for the media to ask a tough question about strategy, and guys like Lue won’t answer them anyway.  That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be called into question.

JK

Hoping Cavs Decide Playing Time On Merit For Playoffs

With the NBA playoffs starting in two weeks, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a lot of decisions to make.  They have roster issues, and good ones to have in the grand scheme of things.

Right now, they have 13 guys who can contribute.  That’s been great considering all of the injuries the squad has had this season.  Players like Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic have stepped up when called upon, something that no one could have foreseen going into the season.

You have to think coach Tyronn Lue will go nine deep when the playoffs start on April 14th or 15th, which means four players aren’t going to see the floor when the post-season starts.

And after seeing George Hill go down with an ankle injury last night, we are assuming the players are healthy too.

Several of the choices are no brainers.  Lue would lose his job immediately if he decided LeBron James and Kevin Love were not part of the rotation.

We would eliminate Zizic because right now, Larry Nance Jr. and Tristan Thompson are playing very well.  Thompson has been a rebounding machine since returning from his ankle sprain, although we would like to see him guarding smaller players on the perimeter lessened.  He may have lost a step of quickness.

When he gets healthy, Hill will be the starter at the point.  He has played solid defense since arriving in Cleveland, and he is starting to learn how to play with James.

Jordan Clarkson has been a constant in his role since coming over from the Lakers, that being the sixth man.  He’s averaging 13.5 points per night on 47% shooting (41% from three), and if he’s got it going, he can change a game with his scoring.

Jeff Green can play the three, four, and five spots, and has also guarded smaller players at times this season.  For example, he did a solid job on James Harden when the Cavs lost a close one in Houston early in the year.  He’s going to get minutes.

That leaves Kyle Korver, Rodney Hood, Jose Calderon, and JR Smith battling for two spots.

The first instinct would say Calderon will be the odd man out, but the reality is, when he plays, the Cavaliers play much better.  Look at last night’s game as a prime example.  Calderon came into the game with 6:22 left in the third quarter and the wine and gold down by 12, at the end of the quarter, Cleveland was up one.

Some might consider it a coincidence, but remember, the veteran was a starter when the Cavs won 18 of 19 games in November and December.

Hood has had back issues, but since returning to the lineup has put up four straight double figure scoring games.

When Smith plays like he did in Charlotte on Wednesday, he reminds us of his role in the title season of 2015-16, unfortunately that hasn’t been the norm this year.  He is shooting less than 40% from the field (37% from three) and his defense has dropped off too.

As for Korver, when he is making shots, he is a force.  He can change a game, but when he’s not making them, there is no reason for him to play.

So, perhaps Lue will go away from conventional wisdom and play ten, which leaves one of this quartet out, otherwise two of them will collect DNP-CDs.

Our guess is that he will go with Hood and Smith initially, knowing Korver and Calderon keep themselves ready and he can go to them if someone isn’t playing well.

If you went on merit, Smith might be the odd man out.  That’s tough to say, but in watching this team all season, that’s the right answer.

Our worry is that Lue will be stubborn and keep playing guys who aren’t getting it done. That’s what we’ve seen all year, but we are hoping the coaching staff looks at things differently come playoff time.

JK

Can Cavs Finally Have Continuity in Playoffs?

We believe if you look up the term “a season in flux”, the picture that will accompany the definition will be that of the 2017-18 Cleveland Cavaliers.

It started in training camp when LeBron James was nursing a sprained ankle and missed virtually the entire exhibition season.

That cost the team valuable on-court chemistry time with all the new faces brought in during the off-season.

When the season opened, Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, Jose Calderon, and to a lesser extent, Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic never shared the court with The King.

After a slow start (5-7), Rose and Tristan Thompson got hurt, so Calderon went into the starting lineup, and the wine and gold had their best stretch of the season, winning 18 of 19 games, with the second unit led by Dwyane Wade and Kyle Korver making a huge impact.

Thompson came back first and then Isaiah Thomas returned to the floor, and things got out of whack, with the Cavs struggling in January (6-8) and particularly on defensive end of the floor.

Kevin Love then broke his hand, and Tyronn Lue started giving Osman more playing time, so there was another period of adjustment.

Really, the only constants in terms of good quality play to this point in the season were James and Green.  The rest of the team either missed time with injuries or were up and down in terms of quality of play.

Next came the big move at the trade deadline when GM Koby Altman traded off half the roster, bringing in some youth with Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Rodney Hood, as well as veteran point guard George Hill.

To this point, Hood and Hill still don’t look comfortable playing with James, and while the former has missed time recently with a back problem, Hill played his 16th game with LeBron last night.

When the Cavaliers went on a west coast trip, the players starting dropping one by one, as they finished the trip without Thompson, Nance, Osman, Hood, Korver, as well as Love.

That meant John Holland and London Perrantes, whose names James may or may not know (we are kidding, we think) were getting time.

Now, Love returns to the lineup, but the squad is missing their head coach, as Lue is taking time away from the team to take care of a medical issue that has plagued him over the past few months.

Thompson and Nance are said to be close to returning, possibly this week, and Osman and Hood should be back in another week, causing more combinations of players that probably haven’t spent much time on the floor together.

All this with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

Is it possible that the Cavaliers will finally get some continuity just as the playoffs are set to begin?  It very well may be.

And the experience the younger players have gained with all of the injuries in the second half of the season will give Lue many options to go to depending on what the opposition is doing?

Getting Lue healthy is a key too.  There is no question in our mind that when we aren’t feeling well, you aren’t thinking clearly.

This is not a guarantee of another appearance in The Finals.  There are a lot of teams in the East that can cause a problem, and no question, Toronto is an excellent basketball team with plenty of playoff experience.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the injured guys came back next week, and the Cavs had three weeks of being able to play with the same players?  We are sure everyone in the organization has that thought.

JK

 

 

 

Cavs’ Flaws Coming Back To Haunt.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have recently played nothing like a team poised to make a deep post-season run since the All Star break.

They have went 4-6 in their last ten games after winning impressively in the two contests after the trade deadline leading up to the interruption in the season.

Kevin Love has been out for awhile with his broken hand, and now other injuries are starting to crop up.  Rodney Hood has a sore back, Cedi Osman has a hip flexor, Kyle Korver has a foot issue, and Tristan Thompson sprained an ankle.

Not many teams could play well without half of their rotation players, but it feels like coach Tyronn Lue’s lack of structure is telling in the team’s struggles, and together with the front office’s ignorance of having big people on the roster, you can make a case the planning is at least culpable in the losing.

Cleveland opened the season with just three real big men–Love, Thompson, and rookie Ante Zizic, and he has been basically ignored by Lue.

The mere idea of entering a season with just three post defenders seems ludicrous doesn’t it?  Especially in a sport, that although it has evolved in the past ten years, where size matters.

That’s the first thing that has come up to bite the Cavs right now.

The second thing would be the lack of development of young players like Osman and Zizic.  Osman has proven to be a solid defender on the perimeter, but he has been marginalized by the coaching staff, a group that most definitely would rather play veterans.

Now the team needs Zizic, but because he didn’t get time early in the season, he doesn’t get the time of day, even in a game like last Friday night, when the Clippers big men destroyed the Cavaliers inside.

Another problem is a lack of emphasis on the defensive end.  Lue’s squad ranks 28th in the league in defensive efficiency, and when the coach talks about his team, all he talks about is pace of play.

No mention about a defensive mindset or defense at all for that matter.

We would like to hear from the coach what exactly are the Cavs trying to accomplish on the defensive end.  They don’t defend the three point shot well, they are terrible in pick and roll situations, and it doesn’t seem like they have some help defense principles.

So what is the plan on that end of the floor?

Lue’s reluctance to change things up is also mind boggling.  JR Smith is second on the Cavs in minutes per game, despite having just 13 double figure scoring games in the last 40 contests.

Eight of those games came in an 11 game span from January 26th through February 22nd.  This means that in the other 29 games, Smith has scored 10+ points in only five games.

He’s the Cavs’ starting shooting guard, by the way.

And because there isn’t a firm offensive game plan, no one knows where the shots will come on a nightly basis, except for LeBron James.  It’s up to James to find where the other players want the ball, which he works hard to find out, but often (like Sunday night vs. the Lakers) it leads to the team going several possessions without getting good looks.

With the playoffs on the horizon, all of these things don’t bode well for a deep playoff run.

Here’s hoping the snooze alarm goes off for the coaching staffs and changes can be made, because it’s clear here that not all of the problems will be erased by Kevin Love’s return to the lineup.

JK