In the midst of a stretch that saw the Wine and Gold play some of the most deplorable basketball this region has seen in the last 10 years, Byron Scott’s team went down to Miami, Florida where they would be 17-point underdogs. Having a lead at several points throughout the game, the Cavs gave an obviously talented Heat team all they had.
While the result was a loss, it was a game that saw effort, heart and actual efficient basketball – the Cavs produced 95 points in 93 posessions, well over their average for the year. But what it also saw was ball movement, specifically of the drive-and-kick variety, leading to 33 three-point field goal attempts.
Fast forward to Monday night in Cleveland and the Cavaliers – despite a losing effort – played one of their most efficient basketball games of the season. In an 86-possession game (the team’s slowest game of the year thus far), the Cavs produced 90 points for an offensive efficiency of 104.7, their fifth-best on the year. But for the second straight game, and third in four contests, the Cavaliers shot a slew of three-pointers, totaling 28 attempts on the night.
Byron Scott would later call this a product of what the defense was giving them. With Utah’s size and ability to collapse the paint, it makes sense that the team would be forced to take jump shots. In fact, of the team’s 72 field goal attempts on Monday night, a season-low 11 were at the rim. Five assists(all by Mo Williams) led to baskets at the rim, but 15 assists led to points converted beyond 16 feet.
This Cavaliers team is smaller, playing three guards for essentially the entire contest, and has several different players who can hit three-point field goals at any point within a game. So when the dry erase board inside of the Cavaliers locker room has “RUN ‘EM” written in bold, Scott knows what he has to work with and what it will take to compete with playoff-caliber teams. Over their last three games, the Cavaliers have outscored their opponents 52-22 in fast break points showing that they are certainly listening to what their coach is preaching.
But when forced to utilize a halfcourt offense, the Princeton offense which is founded upon backdoor cuts and weak side screening/slashing to the rim is instead yielding more and more three-point attempts as the first half of the season wears on. While this may merely be a product of dealing with what the opposing defense is allowing – for better or worse – it is becoming a trend.
Can the Cavaliers continue to take and convert double-digit three-point attempts to bear fruit? During their three-game winning streak earlier this season, the offense was predicated upon shots at the rim (30, 22 and 23, respectively) with less focus on long-range. But since December 15th, a night which may very well be a turning point in efficiency and effort, the Cavaliers are averaging only 18 shots at the rim compared to 25 three-pointers.
Whether or not this is sustainable remains to be seen.
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)