Cleveland Cavaliers: 4 Thoughts, Week 4
Fear the Sword
Color me glad I hedged my bets with ‘might’ be decent.
‘Cause good lord this was a bad week for the Cavaliers. An 11-point loss to the Heat wasn’t that close, neither was a nineteen point loss to the 76ers, nor an eighteen point loss to the Knicks. In each the Cavs trailed by 20 or more points going into the fourth quarter, and only climbed back into the teens in garbage time. Not their best week. Let’s find out why.
1. The perimeter defense is struggling. In the three games, the Cavs’ opponents shot a combined 29-76 from behind the arc -- a 38.2% success rate. That would make them, on average, the third most accurate team from downtown in the league; not sustainable when it comes to team success. When the week started, they had been a top-5 team defending the three, but are at risk of dropping out of the top ten if they don’t tighten back up.
Remarkably, they actually outscored their opponents from deep due to a sparkling 17-36 outing against the Knicks, but they still lost by almost 20 because
2. They got killed on the offensive glass. The Knicks had 19 offensive rebounds in their big win over the Cavs on Monday, leading to them attempting 22(!) additional shots. Even when you’re lights-out from deep, giving up 22 additional shot attempts is devastating. In the two losses to Miami and Phillly, they gave up just four offensive boards in each game, but they also let both teams shoot over 54%(!) from the field -- so offensive rebounds were a bit fewer and further between.
Either they couldn’t get a stop, or once they did, they couldn’t get a rebound. That’s...not gonna get it done. Especially when
3. Darius Garland continues to struggle on offense. He shot 37.5% from the field on 12-32 shooting, and that raised his average. Usually when a shooter is struggling, it’s good to go to the basket, see the ball go through the net, maybe make it to the free throw line and just get some bunnies. Not Darius Garland. After going 2-4 from the line all week, he continues to show an aversion to penetration and drawing fouls. I’m not suggesting that everyone be compared to James Harden, but the Beard is going to the line 14.5 times per game. He shoots as many free throws in one quarter as Garland does all week!
They’re called ‘free’ throws for a reason -- Garland needs to start piling up some easy points, because he’s not creating so much offense for others that he’s making himself irreplaceable, even though his 3.3 assists per game -- wait, is this right? let me check this again. one more time. okay one last time -- lead the team. Which brings me to
4. The Cavs have the fewest assists in the league. The tremendously disappointing Trail Blazers have slightly fewer per game, but have played an extra game. And now that they’ve signed Carmelo, the ball is definitely going to move a little more -- HA! Almost had you there. At least Damian Lillard is averaging over seven per game; the Cavs are a little more egalitarian in their distribution mediocrity.
The John Beilein multi-ball-handler offense was theoretically designed to get the ball moving a bit more, but it’s not quite having that effect yet.
The Cavs continue a tough mini-road trip to Miami and Dallas before home dates against the struggling Nets and Blazers start a six-game homestand. Will the Cavs-Blazers match-up threaten the All-Time record for fewest assists in a game -- 18? Will the Cavs, against all odds and my heretofore unchallenged prediction, sniff .500 again this season? At 4-9, they better turn the boat around soon, or be borne, ceaselessly, into the lottery.
*Stats accurate as of 11/19/20*