After declaring a rebirth of sorts for the Cleveland Cavaliers in my last piece, I now feel a bit of egg running down my face after the team has dropped two very winnable games this past week. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss two factors that I think led to these disappointing outcomes.
I have said this before, and it rings true this week as much as it has all season. We MUST win the games we are supposed to win!
No one takes us seriously when we beat the #2 team in the league one week and lose to a sub .500 team the next. It makes fans and the national media question whether we are actually a good team or just putting on a show with smoke and mirrors.
Offensive Strategy: At times, I find the strategy that the Cavaliers decide to use on offense, offensive. Meaning that it offends my common sense approach as an analytical fan.
For example, when the game is close or we are starting to squander a lead late in a game, why on earth do any of these professional players think that the best idea is to run the shot clock down and hoist up a three pointer? Is it an engrained desire to be the hero as they have practiced thousands of times since they were first introduced to the game as kids?
Sure, sometimes the shot goes in and we all talk about how clutch that player is and how they always seem to bail us out. Most of the time, those shots do not go in and amongst fans there seems to be no accountability for having just wasted a crucial possession.
We should be taking high percentage shots from the paint in these situations. This is the most opportune time to rely on Kevin Love.
He has shown over the last few weeks to be not only shooting a high percentage from down there, but it also puts him in a great position to possible secure an offensive rebound for another clock eating possession. I don’t understand why we settle for just running out 24 seconds and taking a low percentage shot when we can get a higher percentage shot and possibly the chance to run out 40 seconds.
I also want to complain about one more strategy on offense that goes hand in hand with the one I just mentioned. That strategy is the isolation play for James.
Yes, I realize that he is The King and can make his way past most defenders one on one and get a high percentage shot, but it is what consistently happens AFTER he makes it past the player defending him that is in question.
Either he takes a tougher than necessary shot trying to get an “And One” and doesn’t get the call, OR if he does get the call and misses we take our chances at the free throw line.
For being a superstar in our league and contending with James Harden for most “And One” opportunities amongst all players, he has been mostly inconsistent at the free throw line. In close games like the 104-103 loss to Boston, #AllFreeThrowsMatter
Another thing that the isolation play does when you run it over and over, is that it gives the opponents time to rest as the play usually consists of James on one end of the court and the rest of the players just standing around watching on the other side. Make these guys run the slalom around picks at the end of the game so that the fatigue catches up with them and they will make more mistakes.
If Lue is dead set on running the ISO in these situation, PLEASE do it with Kyrie! At least he is shooting a reasonable percentage from the line and finishes just as well or better than James.
Bench Play: The contributions off of the bench in these two most recent losses have been truly disappointing as a collective group. Dellevadova being out with a hamstring issue only cements my suspicion that he is maybe the most important component of the second unit.
The strength of the second unit is clearly anchored in Iman Shumpert’s ability to steal the ball and make players think twice about lazy passes. This is an invaluable asset that we have as it gives us more possessions in addition to take potential points off of the board for our adversaries.
From an offensive standpoint, we just cannot produce consistently. Just when we think that Mozgov has “figured it out” he reminds us that there is a reason he is not starting anymore with another blunder at a crucial juncture.
Against the moderately talented Charlotte Hornets all that out five bench players could amass was 13 points. Delly is averaging over 8 points per game on his own so his contributions are clearly missed.
We cannot expect to win close games without these intangibles. I challenge the players and coaches to play a smarter game and, if necessary, make some key changes to the team that put us in a stronger position to contend in the Finals.
Even if we play horribly, we will get one of the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference purely based on our talent level. Having Kyrie and Love in the Finals this year will not matter though unless some of these issues are corrected.
I’m ready to see if Tyronn Lue is up to that challenge.