Late last season, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said he had a secret plan to fix Cleveland’s defense in the playoffs.
Whether it worked was in the eye of the beholder.
The Cavs finished 21st in points allowed per possession during the 2016-17 regular season. They allowed even more points per possession in the postseason, but that was against the Warriors (NBA’s best offense), Celtics (firmly above average offensively), Raptors (firmly above average offensively) and Pacers (nearly average offensively). The Cavaliers reached the NBA Finals.
Once again, Lue has a secret plan to fight inflation fix Cleveland’s defense – which fell to 29th in the regular season.
he said Cleveland’s porous defense (the word I used in last season’s headline, and hey, it still works) would be “totally different next week.”
“We’ll probably do things we haven’t done all season when it comes to the playoffs, things we’ve been working on all year,” Lue said. “It’s the same thing we do every playoffs. So, we’ll see what happens.”
Because of the Cavs’ major roster overhaul on trade-deadline day, Lue hasn’t been able to keep his playoff defense completely secret. His new players have needed game reps to practice. It seemingly involves more aggressive trapping on pick-and-rolls.
With Jeff Green starting during the playoffs, I bet it also includes LeBron James roaming more. Green has the physical profile to defend the type of forwards LeBron would otherwise match up with, and that could allow LeBron to play a free safety role and lurk in passing lanes.
Whatever Lue does, he has his work cut out for him. The Cavaliers allowed 3.3 more points per 100 possessions than league average. No team with a defense that bad has ever won multiple playoff series.