In The Scope: Golden State Warriors x Cleveland Cavaliers
The only way the Golden State Warriors (27-35) current seven game road trip could have been worse is if they had lost all the five road games they had played entering tonight. The Dubs can thank the schedule makers for scheduling the Wizards on the trip (the lone win so far during this road stretch), but at some point this team has to start winning on the road. One might think that playing the Cleveland Cavaliers (12-50) tonight might be the remedy, but in the last month alone the Cavs have won home games against the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks. Although they have a bad record, the Cavaliers should not be taken lightly.
On offense, Cleveland averages 96.0 points per game (24th in the NBA) on 43.2% field goal shooting (29th in the league). Some fans have said that Byron Scott might be in over his head or that simply he does not put the team in a position to succeed. My counter? It does not matter how brilliant an offensive strategist is if his players cannot put the ball in the hoop. Plain and simple.
The Cleveland Cavaliers settle for a lot of jump shots given their inability to beat players off the dribble to get to the basket. Also, they lack a post presence that could get high percentage shots at the rim or possibly generate a double team that could lead to an open shot for a teammate. The end result is that the Cavs have to rely on a lot of ball movement and continuity in their offense to create open shots. And yet, as previously mentioned, even when they manufacture some good looks at the hoop, it’s rather tough for them to convert. Have a look at the team’s shooting percentages from different spots on the floor (data obtained via Hoopdata):
|Shot location||FG%||NBA rank|
|3 to 9 feet||39.0||15|
|10 to 15 feet||32.9||30|
|16 to 23 feet||37.6||27|
In a nutshell, this explains why the Cavaliers have struggled to score all season. However, as tough as it is for them to put points on the board, they do have two things going for them:
I. Fast break
Byron Scott was once the coach of a young Baron Davis, Jason Kidd and also Chris Paul. His philosophy with all three of them was to push the ball off misses and turnovers to get easy shots at the baskets (it actually baffles me that the Hornets do not do more of this, but that’s another topic for another day). Such a strategy helps offensively challenged teams avoid having to execute in the half court where defenses can feast on every weakness.
This season, Scott managed to get Mo Williams and Ramon Sessions to do the same thing, as the Cavaliers have averaged 14.3 fast break points per game this season (13th in the NBA). Once they force misses, they get out in the open; but the problem is that they defend poorly on most nights, which limits their transition opportunities. Also, with Mo Williams now playing on the west coast, they have to rely on….
II. Baron Davis
Not sure how long it will last, but Davis seems invested so far in Cleveland. He makes the team a better passing one because he is able to find open players and often threads the needle to feed them. Also, the former Clipper just finds ways to beat his defender off the dribble to get to the hole where he dishes it to teammates or scores himself. The Cavaliers offense is a bad one, but on a night when Baron has it going and that the Cavaliers are making shots, their opponents might be in trouble; just ask the Knicks.
On defense, the Cavaliers surrender 106.0 points per game (28th in the NBA) on 47.9% (28th in the league) field goal shooting. This Cleveland team just seems to have problems with figuring out where to be and what to do on defense. In other words, they are easily confused. If opposing teams run their offense crisply and maximize the shot clock, they will get points against the Cavs.
Indeed, the longer they have to defend offenses with continuity, the more they break down. Running dribble hand offs and pick and rolls with action happening on the weak side of the court forces them to make decisions; and well they struggle with those. Often times, the repeated motions on offense force them to switch, as they try to avoid giving up open shots off of screens. However, upon switching players, they tend to overreact to the strategy and send more help than necessary towards the ball handler. The end result is that players cutting from the weak side are often completely ignored by the defense.
Consequently, this Cavaliers team surrenders 41.8 points in the paint per game (20th in the NBA). Further complicating matters, they struggle to rotate to shooters because of all the attention they throw at the player with the ball. As a result, they give up 20.3 three point field goal attempts per game, and allow teams to convert them at a 42.2% clip.
Given the Warriors willingness to fire away from deep, one would expect that trend to hold up at the Quicken Loans Arena tonight. Not to state the obvious, but if the Dubs connect from deep, they should be able to get their second win of this tough road trip; however if they struggle shooting the ball, they might be in trouble in Cleveland. The Cavaliers had 15 steals in their early January match up and took advantage of the Warriors poor defense as they shot 46.1% from the field on the strength of 44 points in the paint.
Cleveland game notes: The Cavaliers abused the Warriors interior defense on January 7th as they were 24-for-36 from the free throw line.
Golden State game notes: The Warriors had a field day from downtown in their last encounter with the Cavs as they shot 14-for-28 from three point range.