Cleveland Cavaliers’ takeaways from awful loss to Houston Rockets

Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images /
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Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers Larry Drew (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Cavs’ defense continues to be inexcusably bad.

Nothing about the blowout loss to the Rockets was surprising. Houston came into the contest with the fourth-best offensive rating in the league (per and Harden is playing arguably the best basketball of his career. However, the overall trend in Cleveland is alarming to say the least, especially after this was the second game in a row they’ve given up 140 or more points.

The defense has been the Achilles heel for the Cleveland Cavaliers since the start of the 2016-17 season. The defense has fallen from 21st, to 29th, to now last in the last three years in defensive rating. This year they’re setting the record as the worst defense in NBA history as they allow 117.2 points per 100 possessions (again, per

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While the head coach has changed during that time, the overall coaching staff hasn’t. Larry Drew inherited most of Tyronn Lue‘s staff from the beginning of the year including Mike Longabardi, who took over defensive responsibility since Lue was promoted to head coach.

The roster has changed drastically in that time frame, but the overall confusion and lack of defensive plan hasn’t.

There’s no excuse for the defense to be historically bad like this. The roster isn’t full of great individual defenders, but it also isn’t full of defensive liabilities.

The issue is that nobody seems to have any idea of what their role is in the overall team defense.

It appears from the outside that there is no common plan on how to defend a pick-and-roll, when to switch, and when to play help defense. As a result we’ve seen a defense that is constantly out of place and allows open shot after open shot.

This kind of defense has been a trend for the last couple years but has reached it’s lowest point this year with the lack of talent on the roster. Young players like Sexton and Osman have been lost on the defensive end for the better part of the year, even though they’ve appeared at times to show flashes of being decent individual defenders.

After the game Tristan Thompson placed the blame of the defensive breakdowns on the players, per Fox Sports Ohio.

Thompson is right, in that the players have not been doing their job on the defensive end. However, from the outside there is no way of knowing what the exact cause of the dysfunction is or who bares more of the blame for the communication breakdown.

What we do know is that dysfunction like this on defense has been a consistent problem the last three years, no matter who has been on the roster. That trend makes the coaching staff look bad in all of this.

Regardless of who shares the majority of the blame, it remains clear that this stretch of basketball is inexcusable, even for a tanking team.