The Cleveland Cavaliers are a frustrating team. They have the third best record in the Eastern Conference, but they are just painful to watch on a lot of nights. I know that they just finished a brutal road trip out west, but this team lost in double overtime to a listless Philadelphia 76ers team that recently traded Allen Iverson to the Nuggets. Obviously all fans hate to watch their team lose. This isn’t anything new. So why is it so frustrating?
Look at the game stats in the loss to Philadelphia. The Cavs attempted more free throws 34 to 27. They out-rebounded the Sixers 46 to 38. They had one more assist 22 to 21 and two more steals 6 to 4. Finally – and most importantly – the Cavs had fewer turnovers (13 to 17) than the 76ers.
With advantages in all these categories, how did the Cavs lose? The Cavs lost the game on offense. Now, when I say that they lost on offense, I am sure a lot of people are thinking, “Duh. If you don’t score more than your opponent, then you obviously lose.” My point is that with advantages in all those other statistical categories, there is no reason why a team should lose.
I break it down like this.
- Shooting – the Cavs shot only 39.4% in this game, including 8 for 21 from 3-point range. This isn’t an isolated incident either. On the season, the Cavs are shooting 43.71% while opponents are shooting 44.87% against them.
- Free Throws – the Cavs shot a dismal 25 of 34 from the free throw line last night for 73.5%. On the season the Cavs are shooting a mere 68.54%. They are only one of two teams in the east that aren’t above 70% for the year.
Another problem could be Mike Brown’s inconsistent player rotation. This could be contributing to the collective inconsistency of the team. Maybe I am missing something and the Cavs are showcasing certain players as we approach the trade deadline, but the best examples of inconsistent playing time would be Daniel Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic.
- Daniel Gibson didn’t play last night against the Sixers. In the last month he has played in most games including 16 minutes against Phoenix, 33 minutes against Portland, and 26 minutes against Denver. In December, he averaged 19.3 minutes per game. So far in January, his playing time has been more erratic and the average is down to 10.1 minutes per game.
- Sasha Pavlovic is also used inconsistently. In November Pavlovic averaged 19.2 minutes per game. True, he was filling in for Larry Hughes during part of that time, but he did some good things that should have warranted at least some time off of the bench. Then in December he lost his spot in the rotation and averaged 6.5 minutes per game and failed to appear in 6 out of the 14 games.
I would expect that this team would have hit its groove by this point in the season. The Cavaliers don’t have the greatest team in league history, but they have one legitimate superstar in LeBron James and a whole collection of pretty effective role players. It seems to me that they should be performing better, night in and night out, especially considering Mike Brown’s stated goal for this season was to improve the offense.
If they don’t figure it out soon, and if they don’t make it far into the playoffs, expect the conversation about Mike Brown’s future with the Cavs to carry on more consistently than the Cavs offense has been so far this season.