1. Toronto used Terrence Ross to defend Kyrie Irving in the first matchup between the two teams and Irving finished 3-16 from the field. How can the Cavaliers help Irving get better looks this time around?
Chris Manning, Right Down Euclid EIC: Call me crazy (and I’m sure Kyrie would do so) but I think the Cavaliers would be smart to play Irving off the ball more against Toronto. Without Dion Waiters or C.J. Miles available (and Jarrett Jack starting), the Raptors can use bigger wings in order to frustrate Irving. As a result, the Cavaliers should use stagger screens to get Irving clean spot-up looks on the perimter and keep him moving and using his quickness to his advantage. The spot ups will also should create some space for Irving to create and get the rim. Still, this might be too much to ask of one of the NBA’s least imaginative offensive coaches.
Marlowe Alter, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: I think they need to run Irving off more screens and have him catch the ball on the move. Ross isn’t nearly as quick as the speedy Irving and will likely be a step behind and out of position when Irving catches the pass if the timing is correct. The Cavs need Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Spencer Hawes to set hard screens, a task Hawes in particular is somehow incapable of doing. Mike Brown just can’t keep running out the same pick-and-roll offense and hope it works this time. He could run Irving off back-screens on the weakside and skip the ball over to him, trying to catch the Raptors off guard. Please, do something coach Brown, try anything other than the same unimaginative offense that is ranked 24th in offensive efficiency.
Trevor Magnotti, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: The Cavs really didn’t give Kyrie many options in the second half, as their offense went stagnant and they struggled to get open looks for anyone. In particular, the pick-and-roll was a futile affair for the Cavs, thanks to the imposing presence of a hedging rhinoceros named Jonas Valanciunas whenever Kyrie curled off a screen. For this time around, I think giving Kyrie more spot-up chances would be beneficial. The Cavs are already stuck playing Jarrett Jack and Matthew Dellavedova way more than they should be, and should put that to use by letting Jack/Delly run these PNRs in an attempt to get Kyrie the ball in space on catch-and-shoot opportunities. If they can hit these consistently, it will open things up for the supporting cast, and relieve some of the pressure from Kyrie when he has the ball.
2. Patrick Patterson and Terrence Ross spearheaded the Raptors big third quarter with excellent outside shooting. How can the Cavs maintain a strong defensive presence when the Raptors use Patterson from outside?
CM: The problem for the Cavaliers here will be dealing with a semi-athletic stretch power forward (Patterson) paired with a massive inside presence (Jonas Valanciunas). Looking first at the latter, Tyler Zeller and Spencer Hawes are both seven feet tall, but aren’t physical presences on the inisde. This means Valanciunas is setup well in order to dominante in the paint. As for Patterson, Tristan Thompson has consistently struggled to defend power forwards who don’t have a traditional skill set. As a result, I think the Cavaliers should take some more risks on defense and really on rotation to close out on Patterson. Granted, this puts a lot of pressure on Kyrie Irving, Luol Deng and others to smartly rotate on defense to Patterson when he is open when they haven’t proven capable of doing so. But, in theory, the Cavaliers could use Thompson and Zeller/Hawes to frustrate to Valanciunas on the inside.
MA: Jonas Valanciunas was actually the catalyst as the big Lithuanian scored 10 points and twice cleaned the offensive glass, leading to an extra four points during the Raps’ huge third quarter run. Nonetheless, Thompson is relatviely comfortable guarding on the perimeter but the problem lies in the Cavaliers pick-and-roll defense. Irving and Jack are terrible defenders, forcing Thompson or the other Cavalier big to stay with the ball-handler longer. This frees up the opposing big man and Patterson can leak out above the break and is a capable long range shooter. A 36.3 percent career shooter from deep, Patterson has played 35 games this season with Toronto, taking two threes per game and making 42 percent of his attempts.
TM: Patterson’s a tough matchup for the Cavs because he moves so fluidly off the ball. On the perimeter, that makes him very dangerous for a team that ball-watches on defense as much as the Cavs do. However, the big issue was that the Raptors started their run by attacking inside, which opened up the shooters for Toronto as the Cavs attempted to collapse on Jonas and Kyle Lowry. To prevent this from happening again, a big game from Zeller and Hawes defensively will clearly be key to preventing Valanciunas from dominating again, but on Patterson, it could make sense to give Luol Deng and Anthony Bennett minutes guarding the stretch four. Both of these guys have been better at guarding stretch fours than Thompson has lately, and these two should help prevent the big mismatch we see when Toronto rolls out a three-guard lineup with Patterson and Valanciunas in the front court.
3. Should Mike Brown insert the newly acquired Spencer Hawes into the lineup?
CM: There is an argument for entering Hawes into the starting five, but I don’t think it’s necesarilly a good one. While it is true that Hawes is the Cavaliers best offensive big, he is best served coming off the bench simply because the Cavaliers need bench scoring. When Dion Waiters returns from injury, he and Waiters will pair up to give the Cavaliers some serious offensive punch off the bench. With his passing abilities, Hawes can also help solve some of the Cavaliers abilities with ball movement on the second unit. And this doesn’t mean that Hawes can’t and won’t play at the end of games. But right now, he can help the Cavaliers the most by coming off the bench.
MA: Brown is trying to give the young Zeller extended minutes and he’s actually played well in his six starts, averaging 10.3 points on 56 percent shooting from the field to go with six rebounds in nearly 22 minutes of run. I actually think Brown should stick with Zeller as the starter and see if he can continue to produce in 20-25 minutes. I like Hawes coming off the bench to provide good spacing with his ability to stretch the defense and pass the ball. Neither player provides toughness at the rim, which is what this team lacks without Anderson Varejao but offensively Zeller has been alright thus far. Let’s see how he plays in the four games this week against quality big men in Valanciunas, Serge Ibaka, Derrick Favors and Marc Gasol and then revisit the question.
TM: I think I’d rather have Zeller in to start games. While Zeller has struggled at times in his starting role, Hawes definitely brings a good energy with him when he’s been coming into the game midway through the first quarter. The Cavs have been notorious this season for collapsing at the end of quarters, and inserting Hawes late has seemed to prevent that from happening. Even when the Cavs started horrifically against Washington and Mike Brown took a timeout 31 seconds into the game, the ship righted itself before Hawes came in, and the Cavs looked stronger once he did enter the game as a sub. I’d rather continue to see this occur for the current time.