Why physical play is the best defense

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 18: Victor Oladipo
CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 18: Victor Oladipo /

One of the reasons for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ big first half against the Indiana Pacers was their aggressive play.

Victor Oladipo came into Game 2 confident after scoring 32 points in the Indiana Pacers blowout win on Sunday. The Cleveland Cavaliers, on the other hand, had received their wake-up call and honed in on their preparation for Oladipo.

They realized the best way to minimize a players impact is to take them off the floor, to begin with.

They did this by attacking Oladipo on the defensive end. Multiple times throughout the game LeBron called for screens to attack Oladipo. By engaging Oladipo defensively, the Cavs make it more difficult for him to beat them on the other side of the floor.

This strategy also continued on the Cavaliers’ defensive end, with Korver drawing a charging foul on Oladipo.

More from Cavs Analysis

This led Oladipo to only score 22 points and only play for 28 minutes. He left the first quarter early with 2 fouls and Kevin Love drew a quick third foul in the second shutting Oladipo down for the half. This was key for the Cavaliers; he’s recorded a plus-minus of +16 in the series according to NBA.com.

The Cavaliers, ever-focused on analytics, know this. As a result, forced Oladipo into positions in which he would foul. The Cavaliers should continue this strategy into the next games in Indianapolis.

This strategy not only means that Oladipo will not be on the floor. What it also means is even when being on the floor he will not be able to play freely on offense or defense. Players cannot take the same risks on either end of the floor that they would be able to without foul trouble.

Furthermore, a streaky jump shooter like Oladipo also needs rhythm. This rhythm is developed by consistent time on the floor. However,  when in foul trouble this will not happen. Oladipo only played 8 minutes in the first half. This going forward could cause issues with his shooting rhythm.

The way the Cavalier guards defended Oladipo also caused this issue. By defending him tightly and physically the Cavaliers put him into a physical game. This was done by a defensively engaged JR Smith throughout the game.

This is the same strategy that the Cavaliers have used throughout the last three years in the Finals to combat Stephena Curry. By putting a physical defender on him that can draw fouls the Cavs diminish his effect.

This famously led to Curry throwing his mouthguard in Game 6 of the 2016 Finals.

This strategy has shown its effectiveness through the years to the Cavs and by playing hard physical offense and defense the Cavaliers can reduce Victor Oladipo’s impact in the series.

Related Story: Kyle Korver was the unsung hero of Game 2