the Golden State Warriors ran the Cleveland Cavaliers Outside their building without the services of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson on a Friday night. They finished the evening 23-43 (53.5%) from behind the arc on their way to a 120-114 victory. This has been a recent trend that Cavaliers opponents are now hitting 42%(!) Of the hat-tricks in the last 15 matches.
Unsurprisingly, the Cavs have it 17 ranked defense During that time period where they posted a 117 Defensive rating. For comparison, the Cavs were the First place in defense With 108.4 Defensive rating ahead of this stretch. For the year, the Cavs finished third in defense overall.
During the last 15 matches, opponents shoot 32.1 three times per game which was the fifth lowest number during that time frame. Cleveland plays at such a slow pace that it deflects some total shots per game numbers. A closer look shows that opponents are trying 35.2% Of their three shots and he Tenth highest during this stretch. For context, before these last 15 games, opponents have been shooting 35% of field goal attempts from three. The problem isn’t that they’re giving up a lot more three-point attempts than they used to.
Now let’s look at where the opponent’s shots come from. The Cavs generally had a better shooting profile during this latest slip than they had before. They give up a lower percentage of edge-shooting attempts (31.8% against. 35.1%), more mid-range shots (33.1% against. 29.8%), a similar number of triads and a slightly lower percentage of corner triads (9.5% against. 9.8%). Moreover, they give up Fewer open trios per game in the entire league during that stretch at 13. The problem is that the team only makes the shots that they do.
To paraphrase Kevin DurantNobody wants to look at the charts when talking about basketball. Just because the numbers say the Cavs are doing the right things defensively, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily doing it.
The Cavs’ defensive philosophy could allow teams to create open trios for players who want to. Cleveland is reluctant to switch screens. They prefer to drop with their elders and protect the edge. This can cause problems such as what happened against Atlanta Hawks in play last season. Arguably Trae Young had the best game of his career, but he was able to create an open look as the adults were dropping onto the screens.
We’ve seen various variations of it against the Warriors. Jordan Paul has been able to frequently create open looks that pop off the screens. Below, Jonathan Cuminga and Evan Mobley held a higher position. Kevon Looney screens Paul defender Isaac Okoro. Jarrett Allen drops to the elbow to protect the drive to the basket. Okoro can’t get past the screen in time to put a good contest in Poole’s third corner and Mobley doesn’t let go of his man.
The next two plays are different variations of the same concept. Poole benefits from Allen stopping off the Looney screens, but as a ball handler now.
Bobby Portis was able to create an open look with a simple pick the night after Milwaukee Bucks. Allen stayed with the roller leaving Portis open to the perimeter. He benefited from this going 5-8 from the depths.
Finally, we see an example of Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard getting a shot he wants. The Cavs don’t defend this play badly. Okoro is examined near Midcourt. Allen dropped back to give Okoro room to recover while not giving up a free run to the basket. But that is exactly what Portland Trail Blazers I want here in a game the lady was feeling. He manages to pull off a low-effort look with a late contest from Allen. Although it doesn’t last, it’s something he’ll eventually live with.
Unlucky Cleveland team. Teams are hitting an unreasonably high number of outside shots against them at an unsustainable clip that will likely drop akin to what we saw at the start of the season. However, this run exposes an inherent flaw in the defense. Opponents are able to create a decent look for players who want too, and this is especially true early in the games. Since the alternative is to try to look inside against Allen and Mobley, teams will continue to try to expose that weakness.
Defenses can’t take it all. There are pros and cons to each system. The Cavs’ biggest shenanigans are giving away open shots after on and off screens as well as giving up their fair share of corner threes.
An NBA team makes very few adjustments to its game plan during the regular season. There is little reason to expect the Cavs to change their scheme much on a night-to-night basis. However it will be interesting to see how JB Bickerstaff handles the playoffs and whether he changes the defensive scheme somewhat allowing the seniors to get closer to screen level rather than constantly slipping around.