As we noted in today’s earlier column
, Blatt has defended the amount of isolation and one-on-one play as taking advantage of the personnel. We wondered if it couldn’t also lead to offensive stagnation, and therefore need to be used more sparingly. Blatt didn’t think so.
“We have great one-on-one talent and we use it to our advantage,” Blatt said. “I don’t think we lack in ball movement or assists or creativity for the team. I think we’re doing pretty well in that area.”
We wondered about Blatt’s suggestion that the team’s passing was fine and so we looked at every possession in the last 17 minutes of the game after the Cavaliers went up 71-58. As you know, the Cavs frittered away that lead as Kyrie and LeBron scored all the rest of the points from this point forward, 28 points in all. We weren’t impressed by the amount of passing but will let you draw your own conclusions.
The Cavs have two such talented players that the Celtics simply can’t match up. We don’t expect the Cavaliers to play like they did in the fourth quarter against everyone – at least we hope not – because this two-man game was (barely) effective against an under-talented Celtics team at home. But what about on the road?
In all LeBron James and Kyrie Irving took 19 of the last 25 shots, the others going to J.R. Smith (4), Kevin Love and James Jones. They made 10 of those of which 3 were assisted, all either James or Irving assisting the other.
You saw it as well as we did so we probably aren’t telling you anything, but we could see the languor setting in for some players. It’s just hard to stay active on offense when you’re watching a lot. That said, Blatt did start running some pick and rolls with Love late in the game, but like a sushi boat with something you’ve never seen, James and Irving mostly just let it pass.
Hey, we don’t have any answers and we’re not coaches but it sure seems like you have to be concerned that the ball gets so sticky at the end of the game. They’re obviously the team’s stars, but it’s significantly easier to stop them if they’re doing it all themselves. We don’t know what you saw, but that’s what it looked like to us, and we’re concerned what that might mean going forward
Here’s our breakdown:
Cavs 71-60, 5:05 4 Passes, Layup
The Kyrie/Irving pick and roll such as it is (there is very little pick, but James still ends up with Thomas on his hip), has James driving and kicking to Smith on the (left) weakside who swings it to Kyrie at the top. Irving attacks the closing defender and finds James underneath. PERFECT. That was pretty much it for ball movement.
Cavs 73-62, 4:30 1 pass, Layup
As we watched this we got a little tear in our eye as Kevin showed up on the right pick LeBron, but James didn’t want to play with him. Love went left and Kyrie ran the pick and roll getting Jae Crowder on him. He drive to the rim but missed.
Cavs 73-64, 3:57 1 Pass, Long two
J.R. Smith comes off a baseline pick by James Jones. (James sits after game break for Celtics free throws.) But Smith takes the pass, holds it does a dribble move for a long pull-up two-point jumper. Just for reference, Smith is shooting about 40% on twos using 3-6 dribbles It took 11 seconds to make that initial pass, leaving Smith little to do but try to execute a difficult move to create space.
Cavs 73-64, 3:21 1 Pass, Open 3
Kyrie runs a pick and flare with James Jones for a three from above the break with 14 seconds left on the clock. It’s way short.
Cavs 73-66, 3:03 1 Pass Open 3
There’s a double pick on the wing from Thompson and JJ, but Kyrie avoids it going right and throwing the J.R. Smith on the weakside wing at the three-point line. He misses. When J.R.’s cold, the offense doesn’t look like much of an offense.
Cavs, 73-66, 2:55 2 passes, Pull-up jumper
Tristan Thompson grabs the offensive board and finally gets the ball to J.R. Smith who waits 7 seconds for Kyrie who winds up with PF Jonas Jerebko on him in the post-rebound shuffle. He goes Iso, dribbles the clock down, goes right and crosses Jerebko over to get just inside the elbow for a soft-touch pull-up jumper.
Cavs 75-66 2:12 2 passes, open 3
Irving runs pick & flare again with JJ who passes to J.R on the weakside right near the 3-line. He’s open by about 10 feet but misses. The long rebound turns into an easy Crowder transition layup.
Cavs 75-68, 1:47 0 passes, pull-up jumper
Thompson picks for Irving who uses it to get a jumper from a little further than the lane’s elbow. It hits back of the rim and bounds out.
Cavs 75-68, 1:26 4 passes, turnover
Thompson knocks away a pass to Jerebko, Irving drives in transition, passes to Jones who passes right back and they run pick and roll, to get switch to put Irving on Jerebko. Kyrie tries to break him down, can’t, passes to J.R. Smith with 6 seconds on clock. Smith drives but his attempt at a lob to Tristan when Zellar stepped in, but J.R. didn’t throw it high enough and the Celts knocked it away an recovered it.
Cavs 75-68, 50 seconds 4 passes, contested 3
The team did pass four times around perimeter swinging from left to Irving in the right corner where he just held it 4-5 seconds before taking a contested 3 over Thomas.
Cavs 75-68, 10 seconds, 0 passes Contested 3
Kryie misses a contested 3 without any action or much of anything.
Cavs 75-68, 11:40 left 4th, 1 passes Turnover
Just when it looked like the Cavs might get Love involved – they got it to him on the elbow and had James run nearby, only to have Crowder draw a foul on James without ever being stationary.
Cavs 75-68, 11:21 0 passes, Layup/Free Throws
James takes the ball at Jae Crowder in semi-transition to draw the foul.
Cavs 77-70, 10:45 0 passes, Layup
James just takes it from halfcourt like this is some YMCA game and slices through the lane for a hoop. This is how a Globetrotter feels versus a General.
Cavs 79-72 10:10 2 passes, Turnover
Love gets a pass from LeBron, and sees Thompson posted up almost directly under the basket but for some reason throws it a foot in front of him, and Thompson didn’t expect to have to come to the ball and didn’t.
Cavs 79-74 9:38 0 Passes, Layup
James again tries to take it 1-on-1 and misses in the lane, then compounds issue by committing foul on the rebound.
Cavs 79-77, 9:10 3 passes, open mid-range jumper
James runs a pick and roll with Kevin Love, reaches lane tosses it out to Shumpert who gives it back to James for a reset. He uses Thompson pick for an open 18’ jumper from the right of the key.
Cavs 81-77, 8:25 2 passes, Turnover
Love feeds LeBron in the post and LeBron throws a silly cross-court pass to Shumpert in the corner which was easily picked off. James is so much smarter than that. That poor pass leads to points the other way.
Cavs 81-79, 8:05 5 passes, open 3
Kyrie runs pick and roll with Love, but can’t shake Avery Bradley, the Celtics’ best on-ball defender. Mozgov tries to help by picking Bradley but fails and Irving winds up trapped. Mozgov gets the ball just inside the elbow causing the D to collapse and opening Kevin Love for an open 3 which he UNFATHOMABLY passes up to give Shumpert a corner 3. EARTH TO KEVIN – We want you to shoot 3s MUCH MUCH MUCH more than Shumpert. Thankfully Shumpert threw it right back to Love who took and missed the open 3.
Cavs 81-79, 7:49 2 passes, Open 3
Shumpert with the offensive rebound feeds James who without even glancing who was on him moves the ball to Kyrie for an open 3.
Cavs 84-81, 7:13 0 passes , layup
Kyrie drove for missed layup of a pick by Mozgov. The ball has already come off, and I want you to look at the movement and positioning of the other three players. Blatt can say what he wants and people can believe what they choose, but ask anyone who has played basketball – when it’s like this you might as well be in left field.
Cavs 84-82, 6:45 0 passes, Drive/Free Throws
Shumpert picks James so he gets Evan Turner on the switch – what maybe for variety? (Probably because Bradley is on Irving and very capable of getting over picks.)
Cavs 85-82 6:23 1 pass, Fastbreak layup
Irving gets the long rebound and James races up the court alongside him, getting feed for layup. At this point, 9 of their last 14 points have come in transition or off offensive rebounds.
Cavs 87-84, 5:59 1 pass, Midrange Jumper
Love picks LeBron but even though Love seems open LeBron doesn’t make pass. Instead he throws to Kyrie who gets a pick from T-Mo and pulls up for a contested 14’ jumper that he drills.
Cavs 89-84 5:38 0 passes, Long jump shot
LeBron gets a pick from Mozgov in front of three point line on the left wing and hits a long jumper a few inches in front of the line. It’s his 11th fourth quarter point.
Cavs 91-84 5:05 2 passes, Layup/Free throws
Love started to pick LeBron from the right but abandoned the project and flared to the left. He shook the first defender to rush him with a head fake and took it into the lane where he tried to feed Mozgov, who was fouled.
Cavs 91-84, 4:37 0 passes, Turnover
LeBron doesn’t look where he’s passing throws ball out of bounds when the play hasn’t even started. Pretty much his fourth head-shaking turnover (3 in the first 6 minutes) depending if you count the on he threw off Thompson’s head.
Cavs 91-86, 4:11 5 passes, 3 shots – layup, close shot, open 3
The pass almost shouldn’t count since it was LeBron after a probing drive passes to J.R. who passes to Kyrie whose drive is bailed out by a foul. We sure hope Blatt has more creative ways to attack the Celtics than by challenging one of the best on-ball defenders in the league. After foul reset, James takes his guy inside, misses, Mozgov got an offensive board and fed Kyrie who also missed.
Cavs 91-87, 3:25 2 pass, jumper free throws
Another bail-out call that the Cavs won’t receive in Boston as the Irving or James show ran into the issue of Irving being shadowed by a very good player in Bradley. Falling out of bounds from behind the backboard on the baseline about 15’ away is not a place where you generally receive a lot of calls.
Cavs 93-87 2:50 1 pass, Layup
LeBron has Bradley matched up on him and backs the guy down. When Jared Sullinger comes to help, LeBron goes around him and scores.
Cavs 95-89, 2:22 5 passes, Turnover
Tristan gets 3-seconds call on the first legitimate attempt the Cavs make at ball movement as the ball swung from side to side
Cavs 95-89 1:43 0 passes, open 3
LeBron gets a pick from Tristan to “free” him for a three the Celtics would probably have let him take. It’s ludicrous to take this shot instead of drive and maybe get a foul, but at least he ran 20 seconds off the clock with what I call the LeBron Corner(s).
Cavs 95-89, 1:32 1 pass, Layup
Thompson’s offensive board really bails out a pour possession and puts the Celtics on the spot. LeBron James gets a screen from Thompson and goes all the way to the basket.
Cavs 97-91, 1:00, 2 pass open 3
LeBron drives and kicks it out to JR Smith who misses a corner 3 (if you’re wondering, yes, Kevin Love is on the bench).
Cavs 87-91, 42 seconds, 1 pass Free throws
Thompson recovers the rebound, giving the Cavs second possession and the Celtics foul.
We aren’t going to try to tease any answers from the data, but it was interesting, and perhaps someone can tell me what to make of it. My rough count has then 5-13 on possessions with 2 or more passes and 9-20 in possessions of 1 or less passes, including 7 of last 10. So it worked down the stretch. We’ll see if it works in Boston.
As always, we’ll be live tweeting and posting video from the game tonight. We can be followed on Twitter @CRS_1ne. We’ll be back tomorrow with a post-game recap (promise!). You can also hear us on Michael James’ Defend Cleveland show on Mondays around 10:45 a.m.