Last week in the film room, we dove into some of Mike Brown’s defensive principles. This week, it’s pretty obvious where I’m going given Tuesday night’s outcome in the heartbreaking loss at the hands of Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers. As always, if you have an idea for a film room topic, I’m always happy to take suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Tuesday night, the Cavaliers allowed the Blazers to collect 18 offensive rebounds. That doesn’t sound particularly outrageous on its own, but when you consider that the Blazers turned that into 35 second chance points on 12 field goals and the Cavaliers only grabbed 31 defensive rebounds (or roughly only 63% of the rebounds at that end) themselves, it becomes the single most significant factor as to why the Cavs weren’t able to pull off the sizable upset on their home court. Let’s take a look at a few of those 18 Portland second chances and see if we see any common themes develop.
For the purposes of this article, I selected a subset of the 18 offensive boards that, for lack of a better word, shouldn’t happen. Now, of course, there’s going to be at least 2 or 3 of these each game, but having this many miscues (and there were multiples of each scenario highlighted here) is unacceptable. I broke these down into four rough and unscientific categories: strength, long rebounds, effort related to technique, and missed assignments.
Let’s start with the strength. You can have the proper position, and you can be aware of time and personnel. Still, you have to hold your ground and not get shoved underneath the basket. Here’s a few examples of where that didn’t go so well for the wine and gold.
The shot goes up on the left side off the hands of LaMarcus Aldridge as Tristan Thompson contests. You see Andrew Bynum and Robin Lopez on the right block. Bynum has pretty good position as the shot goes up, and his knees are bent with his backside into Lopez.
But, Lopez keeps pushing his way into Bynum’s backside. The Cavalier center and his two injury-riddled knees aren’t capable of digging in and holding off a tenacious piranha like Robin Lopez. He shoves his way into prime rebounding position, and he’s forced Bynum directly underneath the basket with virtually zero opportunity for grabbing the rebound.
The ball caroms to the opposite side as most misses do, and Lopez jumps up to tip it in. Bynum reaches for it, but Lopez has already done all of the early work to seal this outcome.
Here, we see it happen again with the same two starring players. Bynum never has the position here as he gets shoved out to the middle of the paint.
To combat this, Bynum has two options. First, he could pull the chair out from Lopez, sending him underneath the basket with his own momentum. Second, he can turn and box him out underneath the basket where his offensive rebound odds are relatively slim.
When Lopez has the position and can explode to the hoop, there’s no stopping him if you’re Bynum. He’s one of the best and most active offensive rebounders in the league for a reason. Robin had 4 offensive boards in this game.
Next, we switch gears to long rebounds. Long rebounds will tend to happen with a jump shooting team like Portland. It’s how the guards handle these bounces that determine the end result.
Nic Batum puts up the transition left wing three, and Jarrett Jack is on Damian Lillard in the corner. Notice that Jack turns his head to see the shot go up.
Standing. Look at all of the standing. Andy and Bynum are both standing just outside the restricted area staring at the rim. Jack is just standing in the short corner, not paying any attention of Lillard running wild toward the paint. Waiters is the only one doing any work for the defensive rebounding effort here, checking out Freeland.
The ball hits the court, and Lillard grabs it as Kyrie and Jack pinch far too late.
Let’s move on to the third unofficial grouping: technique. Some of this could be considered effort, while some of it is bad decision making in the rebounding process. There were a few plays that captured this, but none better than Tristan Thompson’s sequence here. Nic Batum’s shot goes up from the right side with Thompson and Aldridge on the left.
The position here is good. Thompson has his knees bent, making contact with Aldridge with a wide base. Watch where Thompson goofs here though.
Instead of sticking with that checkout and letting the ball come to him, he tries to jump for the ball. The rebound goes longer than he anticipated, and it allows the long-armed Aldridge to back-tap it out to the three-point arc. I think Tristan falls into the trap of thinking like an offensive rebounder on the defensive end. Rebounding is a mindset, but there are different facets of it. On offense, it’s very much about finding a crack or gap to slide your way into for a deflection or possession. On defense, you just need to stay in front of your man and let what happens 70% of the time or more happen. Because Tristan leaped for the ball early like he would if he was trying to score at his own basket, it allowed his man to spring up right behind him and get that opening.
The Cavaliers have bad floor spacing here as Lopez and Lillard have no one around them to even scrap for what should have probably been a 50/50 ball.
Finally, we get to the guards missing assignments and running to the basket. We’ll highlight Kyrie Irving in this case. This is on another semi-transition opportunity. The shot goes up, and Irving runs to the basket, but why?
Irving throws the floor balance off because he’s standing right next to Bynum. Thompson, Bynum, and Miles completely have Aldridge, the only member of Portland in the paint, covered. Instead of at least standing in front of Matthews on the perimeter, he runs in and watches the ball sail over his head and out to Matthews.
Matthews steps into an easy shot and bucket as a result.
One more defies categorization other than a combination of rotten luck, more effort from Portland, and crisp passing. The Lillard shot goes up after a Freeland pick, and it forces Bynum to step out and contest the shot after Irving couldn’t fight through the pick in time.
This gives Freeland free reign to sprint down the key without any obstacles.
He saves it while in the air on the baseline. Freeland had a team-high five offensive rebounds in 27 minutes.
He saves it right to Lillard as the Cavaliers are reduced to spectators it would seem.
Matthews waves the hand as Lillard drives, and Matthews gets the pass on the left wing and buries it. It was a key possession that put the Blazers up six with under five minutes to go.
When we look at the stats on the season, the Cavaliers are a middle of the road defensive rebounding team, ranking 15th in defensive rebounding percentage (74.9%). It’s when we look at Portland’s numbers that we see them pop. The Blazers crash the offensive boards at the 2nd best clip in the association with an astounding 29.8% offensive rebound percentage. They have four key rotation players that average greater than 2.5 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes (Lopez, Aldridge, Freeland, and Robinson). Not only are these four active big men as we’ve seen above, but the jump shooting nature of the Portland offense plays into their ability to run free down the lane and snag second chance opportunities.
After the game, Mike Brown didn’t want to talk about anything but his team getting cleaned on the glass. That’s a good sign that it’s a fluke against a very good team and specifically a very good offensive rebounding squad. The Cavaliers consistently have the size, toughness, and personnel to hold their own on the defensive glass.
Until next time, the film room is closed!