Cleveland Cavaliers: How their defense stifled the Champs

Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images
Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images /
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Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers
Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Paint protection

Cleveland allowed 57.9 percent of shots to fall in the restricted area in the first half. The league average efficiency there is 65.8 percent. At 3-10 feet, it relinquished five of 13 baskets, which is also 2.1 percent below the average and contested cleanly on most drives, giving up four free throw attempts.

Sam Merrill and Craig Porter Jr. showed their stinginess too. Merrill drew a charge on Jackson at the elbow when he anticipated a reckless drive. C. Porter stayed on Jalen Pickett’s back hip after turning a screen and blocked his jumper from behind. And Mobley had two blocks in the backline- the first as a helper when M. Porter assaulted the baseline and the second, rejecting Christian Braun’s layup off the catch.

There was slippage defending the square in the second quarter but the Cavs made up for it in the third quarter largely due to the Joker’s foul trouble, giving up just 30 percent of attempts. While he was unavailable, Cleveland flashed its 2-3 zone with man coverage to prevent inside action.

Defensive rebounding

The Cavaliers secured 36 defensive rebounds, only giving the Nuggets nine extra chances; the visitors couldn’t capitalize more than four points. Cleveland finished with 76.6 percent of available defensive rebounds snagged. Denver got an offensive rebound on just 22.6 percent of its missed field goals in the half-court, putting it in the 28th percentile to all other games played this season.

Jokers Aren’t Wild

Nikola Jokic came into the game with impressive season averages: 29.7 points on 57.3 shooting from the field, 14.1 Reb, and 9.2 assists. He didn’t make those marks in this game.

In the first half, Jokić successfully posted Allen, Mobley and Tristan Thompson. He also set up teammates cutting on the baseline and those open outside. Ultimately, however, the Cavs’ defense was able to limit his impact.

The Cavaliers held the Joker to a season-low of 18 points and to his low of 10 rebounds for 2023-2024. This was because Allen, recognizing he was in foul trouble, got into him defensively when getting backed down. First, Jokić illegally hooked Allen in the mid-post then 22 seconds later, down low, elbowed him on the cheek on a spin.

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He may have made eight of 13 shots, but it was a success for the Cavaliers to hold him to another season-low in minutes with nearly 28.