Where Do Cavs Go From Here?

Last night, there were reports of new Cavaliers’ guard Isaiah Thomas not being able to pass a physical right now, and what would that mean for the megadeal going forward.

Our guess is the trade will not be rescinded.  Kyrie Irving has napalmed any bridge between himself and the organization, and despite LeBron James’ public comments wishing Irving well and thanking him for the last three seasons, that relationship has been destroyed too.

So, we would anticipate additional compensation from Boston in the form of an additional draft pick or another player before the deal would be rescinded.

Besides, although Thomas is a very good player, making second team All NBA in 2016-17, GM Koby Altman probably made the deal to secure Brooklyn’s first round pick next year, and rugged wing defender Jae Crowder first and foremost.

Remember that Thomas is a free agent after next season, and is looking for a max contract.

Also, Altman had to move Irving, who asked for a trade shortly after the Cleveland season ended, and even the national media has praised him for getting an impressive haul for a player who wanted out.

If the deal is called off, there is no guarantee that the wine and gold could make this good of a trade with another team.

So, assuming something is worked out, where do the Cavs go from here?

We are fairly certain that this isn’t the last move Altman will make before training camp.

One, Tyronn Lue has a roster full of wings, with more players available than he has playing time to dole out.

Besides James and JR Smith, the projected starters, Lue needs to find some court time for Crowder, Jeff Green, Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver, and newcomer Cedi Osman.

And don’t forget the rumors that Dwyane Wade could be heading to Cleveland if his contract is bought out by the Bulls, which some have reported as a certainty.

It would figure that Iman Shumpert is the odd man out, but we could also see Jefferson be moved too, although he is a leader in the locker room.

That’s an impossible task.  We would anticipate one, if not two of those players are sent elsewhere, possibly for an experience big man, that the team needs.

Right now, the bigs would be Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Channing Frye, and two inexperienced players:  Edy Tavares and Ante Zizic, who came over in the Irving deal.

The Cavs needed another post player, particularly a rim protector, last season, and to date still have acquired one.  So, there is still definitely a need.

It is doubtful that Kay Felder returns, particularly if Thomas is here, because two sub six foot point guards is one too many.

And, of course, there is the Brooklyn pick, which is huge.  Altman could use it to deal for another star player before the season starts, use it at the trade deadline, or perhaps have it for next year’s draft, as it should be a top five pick.

The Cavs have a chip that a lot of teams will want, especially teams in a rebuilding mode.  That’s why it may be the most important asset received in the trade.

That alone is the reason the deal will not be rescinded.  It might be tweaked, but Kyrie Irving has played his last game with the Cavaliers.

JK

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From Our View, Cavs Have To Move Irving

The news that Kyrie Irving asked Cavaliers management to trade him after the 2016-17 season ended, with a trip to the NBA Finals, by the way, is a bit old now, and the emotion can be removed somewhat.

We hear a lot of local people, media and fans alike, suggest that Irving and LeBron James sit down together and hash out their differences and then play together for this season, take the Cavs to another conference championship, and a possible NBA title.

If it were only that simple.

This is basketball we are talking about, a sports that relies on talent certainly, but also trust and teamwork.

It is difficult to achieve success if four players are pulling in one direction, while the fifth man on the court is looking for something different.

NBA history is full of examples of this.

The Detroit Pistons, led by Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, and Rasheed Wallace probably didn’t have the best talent in the league, but they played as one, and won a title.

Heck, the Cavs in 2014-15 had James, Irving, and Kevin Love, but it wasn’t until they dealt for JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov, and moved Dion Waiters, that they started to win.

What happens the first time Irving misses a key shot, or fails to pass to an open teammate, or allows his man to get an easy look?

Of course, his commitment to the team will be questioned, and not only by outsiders, but within the locker room.

It’s that kind of stuff that tears a team apart from the inside, and would make Tyronn Lue’s job extremely difficult.

This is especially true since results have come out saying the players on the roster are taking sides, and the vast majority don’t understand why a player would want to leave a team that has been to three straight Finals.

As for what GM Koby Altman can get in return, he will not get a player as talented as Irving is on offense, so what he has to do is construct a team that will win in a different way.

He can get a point guard who is a better defender and better playmaker than Irving.  Remember how James and Matthew Dellavedova would play off of each other?  Maybe you can get someone who can do that in the deal.

You also can create a deeper roster, one that will play better with James off of the floor, which would in turn allow #23 to play less minutes.

Less minutes during the regular season would mean a fresher LeBron in the playoffs, and we all know he can control a game by himself.

A better defender means you don’t have to score as many points to win games, and some of the scoring slack can be picked up by Love, Smith (who had a tough season with injuries a year ago), and newcomer Derrick Rose.

A deeper bench means you won’t have the drought that Cleveland had in the Finals, where when James came out of the game, leads vanished quicker than our money at the Jack Casino.

Moving Irving is Altman’s best chance to reshape the Cavs’ roster, giving the team a better chance to compete at a championship level for the next three to four years, assuming James stays on the roster.

Right now, there is a lot of age on the team, and a deal would allow the wine and gold to get younger and more athletic.

However, it would take more than a meeting of the minds for Kyrie Irving to stay in Cleveland.  The trust is gone, and that would be difficult to repair.

JK

 

 

 

Cavs Need Tweaks, Not Overhaul

With the NBA Draft occurring this past week and the beginning of the free agent period dawning next weekend, there has been a lot of talk about what the Cleveland Cavaliers should do this off-season.

Most of it comes from the uncertainty surrounding the franchise because LeBron James’ contract expires at the end of the 2017-18 campaign.

In our opinion, whoever the new Cavs’ GM is, probably Chauncey Billups should tweak the roster, making the bench younger and more athletic because that’s where The Finals were lost, when James was off the floor.

Look, most people, especially the national media have painted the Golden State Warriors as this unstoppable team, which we don’t buy into.

They are a great team without a doubt, with two titles in the last three years, and in between a record setting 73 win team in the regular season.

But we can’t help but think what would have happened if Kyle Korver (and we aren’t blaming him) makes the corner three in the last three minutes of the third game of the championship series.

If he does, Cleveland wins that game and is trailing 2-1 with the fourth game at The Q.

We believe even the smug Steve Kerr would admit the wine and gold outplayed his team for the majority of the third and fourth games of the series.

You do not break down and reconstruct the roster for several reasons.

First, as long as you have James, you have a chance to win the title.  That’s how good he is.  So, any talk of trading him (even though he has a no trade clause) is stupid.  You ride it out with him.

Second, remember that the Cavs went 12-1 in the Eastern Conference playoffs and one of the East’s best players, Jimmy Butler, went to the West.

Our point is that there is no team in the East challenging Cleveland right now.

Oh, what if Boston signs Gordon Hayward?  Here are the Celtics three best players:  Isaiah Thomas, Hayward, Al Horford.  We rest our case.

The Celts are trying to build to be the best in the East when James finally slows down, retires, or leaves.

In The Finals, we believe we can all agree Tyronn Lue received no help from his bench, outside of Richard Jefferson.  Korver, Iman Shumpert (who played three minutes in the last game), Deron Williams, and Channing Frye were non-factors.

Taking a non-emotional look at the Cavs, the five players mentioned need to be replaced, although we would understand keeping one or two for experience.

We would also look to move Tristan Thompson, who after six seasons still makes you cringe when he is taking a shot from longer than five feet.

Thompson is making a ton of cash ($16.4 million next season), and we believe you could get a similar player AND someone else who can help for that amount of money.

Look around the NBA, there are a lot of players who do what Thompson does.  He’s an very good defender and he’s an energy guy who grabs a lot of rebounds.

We say take emotion out of it because these guys won a title here, the first seen in northeast Ohio in 52 years.  Of course, we love them for that.  But you have to think about the upcoming season.

And whoever is running the Cavaliers has to make the roster better.  And to do it, you don’t move your three best players, all of whom are all-stars, you fix the rest of the team.

Break up the Cavs?  That’s just stupid sports talk conversation.

JK

Blaming Lue Is Lazy Way Out

With the Cavaliers losing the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, there is, of course a lot of scrutiny on the organization, and what the Cavs will do going forward.

There is the matter of whether or not GM David Griffin will stay on in that capacity, and what changes in the roster will be made for the 2017-18 season.

One of the things the lazy fans and media have talked about is the possibility of a coaching charge, which we find ridiculous.  You cannot point to anything Tyronn Lue did in The Finals to cost the Cavaliers the series.

Is this to say Lue is the greatest coach in the NBA?  No, but we would put him in the upper tier of head coaches in the Association.

He was hamstrung against Golden State because his bench contributed basically nothing, so he was manipulating his reserves in order to get his starters some rest without the game getting out of hand.  That causes him to be in a defensive coaching style.

On the other hand, a criticism of Lue was that he didn’t develop some of the players on the bench during the regular season.  The Cavaliers played very well in February and Derrick Williams was a solid contributor during that month, yet he disappeared in March and throughout the playoffs.

We don’t go to practice, so we don’t know if something happened to cause Williams to fall out of favor, but he is the type of player who it seems could have helped against the Warriors.

Again, just because we think Lue is one of the NBA’s better coaches, doesn’t mean there aren’t things he should do differently next season.

The first is to establish more of a defensive mindset from the start of training camp.  After the calendar switched to 2017, the ability to stop opponents from scoring fell greatly.

Once the playoffs started, the Cavs used some different schemes and the defense improved, that worked, but it shouldn’t come down to that.

And it has been reported that the head coach himself takes more of a role in the defense once the regular season ends.  It starts with the individual, but perhaps there should be more of a mindset on that side of the ball right from the get go.

The second change that needs to be made is monitoring minutes, especially for James, who will turn 33 years old during next season.

In conjunction with this, the coaching staff must come up with a plan to play better when James isn’t in the game.

Even when James is on the bench, Lue still has Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on the floor, and it shouldn’t be difficult to make sure those two are on the floor when James isn’t.

The ball movement that is present when James is on the floor seems to stop when the best player in the game isn’t on the floor.  The coach has to insist the same style of play occurs no matter who is on the court.

That was also evident in the playoffs when Irving was playing iso ball, and his shot wasn’t going down.  That isn’t pretty basketball, in fact, it is conducive to the other team going on a run.

The point here is Lue was good enough to guide the Cavs to a title a year ago, and this year, some of his moves didn’t work because his bench didn’t help him out.

So save the hot takes to get a new coach.  Tyronn Lue is the man for the job.

JK

Cavs Need To Try Something New Now.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have given no indication they can win the NBA Finals based on the first two games.

The Golden State Warriors won both the first two games rather easily, winning by 22 points in game one, and 19 on Sunday night.

This makes Wednesday night’s game three a must win for Tyronn Lue’s squad.  Lose that one, and it looks like a sweep for the Warriors, not only in The Finals, but an unprecedented undefeated run throughout the playoffs.

Can the Cavs win game three and get back into this series?  Of course, no team is unbeatable, but it will be very difficult for the wine and gold if they continue to play at they did in Oakland.

First, we believe they cannot continue to play at the Warriors’ pace.  We understand Lue normally wants the Cavs to play fast, up tempo, but Golden State is better at it than Cleveland, so you must try something else.

That is not to say never run.  When the Warriors miss a three and it develops into a long rebound, grab it and go, and get an easy hoop.

We said in the middle of the regular season that no team’s defense is more dependent on its offense than the Cavaliers.  That is because, by and large, their transition defense is poor, maybe because they have some age on them.

So, if they don’t have a fast break opportunity, slow the game down.  Take as much time as you can on the shot clock and still get a decent shot.  Keep the number of possessions down, and perhaps you can frustrate Golden State with the slow pace, forcing them to take quick, bad shots.

Second, you must take care of the basketball.  You simply can’t turn the ball over, giving the Warriors easy looks.

The wine and gold also need to continue to attack the basket.  Steve Kerr’s team doesn’t really have a rim protector, particularly when they go small, and you have to take advantage of that.

LeBron James and Kevin Love have done a good job around the rim.

By the way, speaking of Love, hasn’t he laid to rest the theory that he can’t play against the Warriors?  He had a 21 rebound game in the first contest, and scored 27 points on Sunday.

They also need Kyrie Irving to play like an all-star.  Irving has shot just 40% in the first two games, and made curious shot choices both nights.  It was odd to see Irving trying to drive on Kevin Durant in game two.

The Cavs have to do better from three point range.  In the regular season, the wine and gold actually shot better than the Warriors from beyond the arc, but have hit just 31.7% from distance thus far in the series.

That seems to be a lot that has to change, but outside of changing the pace, which is difficult and takes discipline, all of the others are possible, because it was done in the playoffs.

This isn’t last year, and there is nothing to indicate the Cavaliers will be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit again this year.  They have to win on Wednesday, or this series will be ending much quicker than anyone in northeast Ohio would like.

They have to take it game by game.  Win game three, and you are back in the series.  Forget about the rest of this series, do whatever needs to be done to win on Wednesday night at The Q.

JK

 

 

Previewing Cavs-Warriors III

Well, it’s finally here.

Tonight, the NBA Finals start and the rematch everyone expected prior to the playoffs starting has arrived, with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors doing battle for the third straight year.

And better yet, each team has won a title, making this the rubber match.

Make no mistake, the Golden State Warriors are a great team.  They won 67 games in the regular season and have swept through the Western Conference playoffs.  And their statistical resume is outstanding.

They led the NBA in field goal percentage, steals, and blocked shots.  They are also number one in defensive field goal percentage and three point defensive field goal percentage.

They are also third in shooting the long range shot, but one of the teams are rank behind are the Cavaliers, who were second during the regular season.

If they have a weakness, they only rank 7th in the Association in rebounding and they are prone to turn the ball over, 9th in the league in that department.

However, we believe the Cavs have a solid chance to repeat as champions if they control the tempo, and are patient on offense.

We thought this before the San Antonio Spurs executed this in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals before Kawhi Leonard got hurt, and that performance early in that series just confirmed it.

There is no doubt that the Cavs will do what they did in last year’s Finals, that is, running pick-and-rolls with LeBron James and whoever Stephen Curry is guarding to get the matchup of Curry on James.

We understand many people think Curry is a good defender, but the metrics show the opposite, and besides he is five or six inches shorter than James and probably a good 70 to 80 pounds lighter.

Golden State is a solid defensive team, but we feel some of that comes from teams trying to place their style and at their pace.  That leads to poor shot choices and poor passing, which accounts for their outstanding defensive field goal percentage and their steals.

We also think most NBA teams are intimidated by the Warriors.  We said most, because most assuredly the Cavaliers are not.

We also have to bring up the way the games will be officiated.  We have long contended that the Warriors are coached to foul each and every time down the floor, knowing the referees will not call them all.

If Golden State defenders are allowed to hack away at James’ arms when he takes the ball to the basket, that’s a huge advantage for them.  The same with Curry and Klay Thompson on Kyrie Irving.

On the other hand, the Cavs want to be physical too.  They will try to run Curry into picks, bumping him around hoping it will take its toll at the end of games and if the series goes to six or seven games.

One thing we don’t understand is the coaching edge everyone gives the Warriors if Steve Kerr is on the sidelines.  Kerr is a fine coach, but we simply don’t see anything that gives him a decided edge over Tyronn Lue.

Lue has shown an ability to take away an opponents’ strength offensively.  This ability will be tested in this series.

We believe the Cavaliers can win this series, and the Warriors shouldn’t be an overwhelming favorite.  We understand they are favored, but it shouldn’t be a 90% chance.

As for a hero if the Cavs pull it off, besides one of the big three?  We think JR Smith comes up big in a Cleveland repeat.

JK

 

 

The Transformation Of JR Smith

It has been said many times that no player on the Cleveland Cavaliers have had to sacrifice more than Kevin Love.

Love was a star in Minnesota, the guy the entire offense ran through.  He was a high scorer too, averaging over 26 points per game twice in his Timberwolf days.

With the Cavs, Love became a “third wheel” behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.  His scoring dropping to around 16 points in Cleveland, before climbing to 19 this season.

Many people say Love became a glorified stretch four, a spot up three point shooter.

That’s crazy, of course, but we guess people figured he was going to continue to average 26 points a game with the Cavs, which would be almost impossible.

However, another member of the wine and gold has sacrificed greatly, and it largely goes unnoticed.

When GM David Griffin made the three way deal early in 2016 with Oklahoma City and New York, it was thought Griffin had his eye on Iman Shumpert, a wing defender, who was also athletic enough to run the floor.

Smith was regarded as a throw in on the deal, a player put in to balance the salary cap ramifications, basically (it was said at the time) if you want Shumpert, you have to take Smith.

JR’s reputation was that of a troublemaker.  He has tremendous talent.  He was sixth man of the year in 2012-13 when he averaged 18.1 points for the Knicks, a season in which New York won their division and lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

As the Knicks fortunes went south, so did Smith’s concentration.  He liked the NYC nightlife, his scoring average and shooting percentage dropped, and the Knicks management wanted to unload him.

His reputation on the court was that he never met a shot he didn’t like, and fired the ball up at times to make his coaches grimace.

We remember NBA writers saying at the time of the trade, that when JR is on a good team, he is fully engaged, which will help him with the Cavs, they were a team ready to make a title run.

In game one of the Eastern Conference finals vs. Atlanta, Smith stole home court from the Hawks with an incredible shooting display, scoring 28 points by hitting 8 of 12 from beyond the three point line.

Smith can still knock down shots, but he is the guy Tyronn Lue turns to in stopping the opponents best wing scorer.  He did a great job on Paul George in the first round, and gave DeMar DeRozan fits in the conference semifinals.

He had a thumb injury which required surgery this season so his scoring average dropped to under 10 per night (8.6) and his three point shooting fell from 40% to 35.1%.

But he is still a key member of the Cavs because of his defensive prowess, and it doesn’t hurt that fans around northeast Ohio love him.  People here don’t care about your past, they judge you on how you treat them.

His emotional reaction to winning the NBA title on Father’s Day a year ago is something we will never forget.  He thanked his dad for always standing by him.

So, while Love has certainly subdued his game in order to win, don’t forget how JR Smith has went from a player considered undisciplined to one his coach trusts to do a great job on defense against the top scorers in the NBA.

Sacrifice and unselfishness.  Lue and LeBron James always talk about it and Smith is a grand example of what they mean.

JK

Cavs Keep On Rolling

Another series, another sweep for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Tyronn Lue’s squad is moving on to the Eastern Conference final for the third straight season after taking care of the Toronto Raptors in the minimum amount of games.

And save me the Kyle Lowry excuses, Raptors fans.  Yes, he is your team’s second best player and an all star. But outside of Cleveland, no one cares the Warriors won The Finals in 2015 because Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were out.

Also, no one cares outside of northeast Ohio that Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar couldn’t start in the World Series.

It’s a loser’s lament.  We get it, it has happened to our teams, but in the end, people won’t remember.  Besides, the Cavs were dominating the Raptors (sorry, Dwayne Casey) before Lowry sprained his ankle.

So, as a result of the sweep, the veteran Cavs will probably get another week off before they take on the winner of the series between the Celtics and Wizards.

Just think how good the Cavaliers can be if Kyrie Irving ever starts shooting the ball well.  Irving shot under 40% from the floor in this series (37.5%), although he was better from three point range in the conference semi-finals.

It was another incredible performance by the sport’s best player, LeBron James.  The King averaged 36 points per game against Toronto, shooting 57.3% from the floor, hitting 48% of his long range shots.

He complemented the scoring and shooting by adding 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the series.  It has taken the post-season for everyone around the country to appreciate the greatness of LeBron James.

During the regular season, all basketball fans heard about were Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and to a lesser extent, Kawhi Leonard.

All three had tremendous regular seasons, but since the playoffs have started, James is reminding everyone who the best player in basketball still is.

Another thing this series showed is the transformation of JR Smith.  Smith came to Cleveland with the reputation as a shooter without a conscience, but now can be put on the opponents’ best wing scorer, and put him in check.

Smith’s defense of DeMar DeRozan in the first two games of the series was a big key.  Add that to the job he did against Paul George in the first round, he is a huge for what Cleveland wants to do defensively.

Back to Irving, he did a great job passing in this series, averaging 8.5 assists in the four games.  When Irving gets seven assists or more in a game, the Cavs are 23-6 for the season, including the playoffs.

And when Irving is being rested, Deron Williams has played very well.  He was on the floor when Cleveland busted open game three in Toronto, just as he was in the big comeback win over the Pacers in round one.

Finally, Kyle Korver was huge in the last two games of the series, hitting two huge three on Friday and going crazy in the second quarter today with 16 points on four three pointers.

And the defense continues to improve too, which was a huge concern going into the post-season.  When Toronto missed shots, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love gathered up the misses.

So, the Cavs are back in the NBA Final Four, the conference finals.  Even if Boston wins the series in five (the quickest it can be over), it will probably be the upcoming weekend before the next series starts.

That’s the biggest benefit for winning early.

JK

 

 

 

Cavs-Raptors Set To Do Battle…Again

Last season, the Toronto Raptors were the only Eastern Conference team to win a playoff game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

They won both games three and four in Toronto to even the Eastern Conference finals, before the wine and gold won the next two contests to advance to the NBA Finals for the second straight year.

We all know what happened there, right?

This year, the two teams meet one round earlier, in the conference semi-finals, and they finished the regular season with the same record.

The Cavs have home court advantage by virtue of winning the season series, 3-1.

Toronto is a top ten defensive team, so it will not be a picnic for the Cleveland, who like to win by outscoring their opponents.

In defending the Raptors, they are a team, much like Indiana, that doesn’t shoot a lot of three point shots, ranking 22nd in the NBA in attempts and 13th in percentage from beyond the arc.

Where the Cavs should have an advantage in on the boards.  Toronto is one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, so Tristan Thompson should be able to buy Tyronn Lue’s squad some extra attempts, and they defending champs must control the defensive glass when they force a miss.

The Raptors also take care of the ball very well, 4th in the Association in least turnovers.

Toronto holds opponents to 44.9% shooting, slightly better than Cleveland’s 45.8%, but they are slightly ranked lower in defending the three pointer.

Remember last year, Dwayne Casey was so afraid of the Cavaliers three point barrage against Atlanta in the conference semis that he placed too much emphasis on that and let the Cavs parade to the basket in the first two games.

It will be interesting to see how the Raptors play it starting tomorrow night.

No doubt the Cavs have to defend Toronto’s high scoring backcourt of DeMar DeRozan (27.3 PPG) and Kyle Lowry (22.4).  They account for 43% of the Raptors’ field goal attempts.

DeRozan doesn’t take many three point shots, less than two per game, so the Cavs may give him that shot, which he is not comfortable in taking.

Serge Ibaka, who came over at the trade deadline, likes to shoot from out there and he can make them too, shooting at 40% since arriving in Canada.

The Raptors also have a solid big man in Jonas Valenciunas, at 12.0 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.  Lue will likely combat him by using Channing Frye to draw him out of the paint, and perhaps off the floor.

Casey started using Norman Powell instead of the big man in the first round series win over Milwaukee.

Toronto also picked P.J. Tucker at the deadline, presumably to guard LeBron James, but he shot slightly over 40% with Toronto, which means the Cavs don’t have to honor him on defense.

Offensively, the Cavs need Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to make shots, which they struggled doing in the first round.

Irving shot 42% from the floor and just 22% from the three point line.  Hopefully, the time off allowed him to rest his legs and get them back into his shot.  He also needs to average more than three assists per game, even if the offense is running through LeBron James.

Love also shot just 42% from the field, although he was much more successful from beyond the arc, knocking down 41%.  He needs to continue to attack the basket when he gets the ball near the basket, and also has to be a force on the defensive boards.

This doesn’t figure to be an easy series if both teams play well.  Keeping DeRozan from having big nights is probably the key to the series.

If the Cavaliers aren’t playing well, and don’t continue to improve defensively, they could be pushed to the limit.

JK

 

 

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