INDEPENDENCE (92.3 the Fan) – The Cavaliers went through an “escape room” as a part of their Halloween celebration a year ago. On Tuesday, a night after this year’s Halloween activities, the team spent a long time discussing why their defense has been one of the least troubling to escape in basketball.
Head Coach Tyronn Lue has continued to speak at length about the team’s conditioning in the early going, and how it has taken away from his squad’s defense and transition game.
Despite currently sitting 16th in the NBA in pace, the same spot they finished in 2016-17, the Cavaliers’ defense is the 4th-worst in the game. The wine and gold allow 109.8 points per 100 possessions.
Cavaliers opponents have taken the third-most shots in the NBA without taking a dribble. The defending Eastern Conference champions are in the 41st percentile in transition, allowing 1.12 points per possession on what amounts to 15.9 percent of opponents’ possessions.
“The problem is we’re not getting out of the corners,” Lue said. “When shots are going up, guys are standing in the corner not getting back, and teams, miss or make, they’re pushing the ball against us, trying to get back, get confusion, get mismatches, the same reason we want to play fast. That’s what teams are trying to do, and we’ve got to do a better job of getting back.”
The conversation was bound to happen after the Cavaliers’ 3-4 start, but was not one that was ‘over the top’ according to forward Kevin Love. Lue said he noticed a difference in the team’s energy in the practice that followed.
Lue also contended that his team needed to contest shots better, though they are in the top-10 in the NBA in contesting shots — 2nd against 3-point attempts — and defensive FG% (56.7).
With all of the travel and the necessity to manage health through an 82-game season, the ability to get in better shape will have to come through playing more minutes, Lue said.
Love said minutes would not need to be elevated otherwise.
“We have the luxury of being able to put guys at different spots where we don’t have to necessarily log 30-plus minutes, even the starters,” he said.
The NBA’s change to their timeout rule has not helped either. The league made the move to seven timeouts a team per game, from nine, with only two permitted in the final three minutes.
Lue said 35-year-old Dwyane Wade approached him about the change, which has increased the stretches of time players are on the floor consecutively.
That has also directly affected LeBron James, who missed the majority of Training Camp and the pre-season with an ankle injury.
“He’s got to get in better shape,” Lue added. “Missing the whole training camp and getting hurt the second practice really set him back as far as being able to fly around and push the pace offensively, fly around defensively. He’s trying to work himself back in shape, but the games are coming so fast that it is kind of hard to do that.”