Once again, the Cavs find themselves searching. For answers. For lineup combinations. For workable schemes. Only this time, the answers may not be found. Playing with more consistent effort will help. But it’s not a cure-all.
Well, the offense did its part Saturday night, tallying a season-high 131 points on 50 percent shooting and 44.1 percent from 3-point range.
And yet, the best offensive night certainly didn’t do much to alleviate any defensive concerns. Dreadful once again, the Cavs gave up at least 30 points in three of the four quarters, nearly causing a late-game collapse. Cleveland still snuck out of Orlando with a four-point win, ending a five-game losing streak on the road. Still, it’s not about a Saturday night game against Orlando. This is a big-picture team.
The Cavs currently rank 28th in defensive efficiency, allowing 108.5 points per 100 possessions. Only Phoenix and Sacramento have been worse this season.
Ball handlers continuously got the edge at the point of attack, forcing the defense to over-help. Orlando was able to race out in transition, recording 25 fast break points. The Magic also scored in the paint with relative ease, taking advantage of the lack of rim protection, piling up 66 points on 33-of-53 shooting inside. On the season, the Cavs’ defense ranks 25th in points in the paint allowed.
CLEVELAND, Ohio — When Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue was asked about his slipping defense prior to the team’s shootaround Saturday morning, he pointed elsewhere, to the other end of the floor — an explanation he has given numerous times in the past.
Historically, teams outside the top 10 don’t win the NBA title. The last team to do it? The Los Angeles Lakers, nearly two decades ago.
Five players (LeBron James, Kevin Love, JR Smith, Isaiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade) reached double figures in scoring.
For all the great things Thomas promises to add, he won’t be able to do much — if anything — to fix the defense.