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Cleveland has lost six of its last nine and has given up 127 points in back-to-back games. What is wrong with the Cavs' defense, and how do they fix it?
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David Aldridge:A lot of things. Among the chief ones, though, is that the Cavs don't seem to be nearly as good with Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love together on the floor. When Thompson was out, and Love was playing center, Cleveland attacked opponents with traps and switched all over the floor, out of necessity as much as innovation -- the undersized Love couldn't spend all night banging in the paint against guys 20-30 pounds heavier. And, it worked well enough; Cleveland's defensive rating in November wasn't great (107.2, 21st in the league), but the Cavs were/are so productive offensively, with Love having an All-Star caliber start, they just outscored a lot of people. But Iman Shumpert went down at the end of November to arthroscopic knee surgery, and Thompson's return in mid-December has not helped; Cleveland defensive rating fell significantly in December (109.7, 26th). Thompson has just one double-figure rebounding game in the 12 games since his return, and he's blocked just three shots overall since coming back. There's a reason you keep hearing Cleveland linked via the rumor mill to DeAndre Jordan. It's not all Thompson or Shumpert, but there's something not right there.
Steve Aschburner: It would be nice if the Cavaliers could just go into the gym and strategize their way to stingier defense. All they’d need to work on would be their methods against pick-and-roll plays ... and running shooters off the 3-point line ... and defending better in the paint. See, there’s so much to which they must attend. This is bigger than tweaks. There’s energy missing, there’s effort missing and there’s hunger missing from Cleveland’s game (roster?) now. Adding Isaiah Thomas was an offensive boost but a defensive step back. Nothing is going to bail these guys out short of being scared straight, snapping out of the “too cool for the regular season” malaise and realizing bad habits are hard to shake.
Shaun Powell: The players with the best defensive reputations have slipped a bit (Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith and especially Jae Crowder), making the Cavs more vulnerable than expected. Short of making a trade for DeAndre Jordan (don't hold your breath because the Cavs have little to trade other than maybe Thompson), this is what the Cavs must live with. Still, I continue to believe the Cavs, like most of the very best contenders, just want to get through the season. It's the Boredom Factor.
John Schuhmann: What's wrong? It's the regular season. How do they fix it? Get to the playoffs. Last season taught us that LeBron James and his team have the ability to flip the switch on that end of the floor. After ranking 29th defensively after the All-Star break and 13th in the first round, they defended well against the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics over the next nine games. Of course, in The Finals, they had no chance defending the best offense we've ever seen, and the bad habits (laziness in transition and miscommunication on switches) that had built up made that more difficult. So yeah, they needed to start fixing things three months ago. Good (and bad) defense starts in transition, where only the Rockets have allowed their opponents to get a greater percentage of their possessions than the Cavs have (16.1 percent). The Cavs also don't force their opponents to take inefficient shots; Only Oklahoma City and the Lakers have allowed their opponents to take a greater percentage of their shots from the restricted area or 3-point range, and the 11.9 3-pointers per game the Cavs have allowed would be the second most in NBA history (behind only the 12.1 the Kings are allowing). When the team you've got your sights on is the Golden State Warriors, that stat is one that should scare you.
Sekou Smith: Didn't we ask a similar questions months ago when the Cavaliers were 5-7 and everyone was freaking out? Sorry, didn't mean to mess with the messenger. They don't play any, that's what's wrong with the Cavaliers' defense these days. The Cavaliers were built for defense when LeBron James first returned to Cleveland. But that's not who they are anymore. Once they decided they'd rather beat the Golden State Warriors by playing the Warriors' way -- rather than try to stop them with a defensive-minded scheme of their own -- the gradual personnel shift and change in focus took over. And now they are stuck in the same way quite a few teams around the league are, trying to play offensively like the Warriors while being unable to match their style on defense for various reasons.