How Cleveland Cavaliers defense allowed embarrassing New York Knicks upset

New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers
New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages

The infirmary-ridden New York Knickerbockers strolled into Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse and, on the first possession, lost Jalen Brunson for the game. He went up for a jump shot around the nail and fell in pain, holding his left leg. Miles “Deuce” McBride was substituted, and the match proceeded.

The Knicks were missing Julius Randle (shoulder), Mitchell Robinson (ankle) and OG Anunoby (elbow) before the game. The Cleveland Cavaliers were without Donovan Mitchell (knee) and Caris LeVert (elbow).

Donte DiVincenzo turned into Allan Houston. Precious Achiuwa, who is usually as offensively challenged as Ben Wallace, broke double-digit scoring for the 18th time this season. Bojan Bogdanovic carbonized his cover. Finally, Josh Hart racked up a monstrous triple-double, powering the Knicks to the finish line.

The game had five lead changes and three ties. Let’s examine the Cavaliers’ defense.

Guarding the perimeter

The Cavaliers conceded 16-of-39 triples because it was slow, disrupting handoffs, contesting after the catch because of sagging off the arc and late trailing in transition, and the guests also ultimately swished some tough baskets.

The Wine and Gold’s outside defense was burned for six-of-11 trays in the first quarter. The culprits were DiVincenzo, Hart and McBride, each with a pair. The Cavs were off to a poor start on the arc, and it hurt them all night.

In the next frame, the team didn’t allow any triples in four tries. Craig Porter, Jr. got over a screen in time to disrupt Alec Burks’ release; Jarrett Allen switched onto DiVincenzo in time at the top of the key; Darius Garland closed out to DiVincenzo in the corner; and Isaac Okoro was on top of DiVincenzo’s final try of the half, from the left wing.

Then another sign of the Cavs’ troubles appeared a minute into the second half. Achiuwa, who buried five of his 23 triples in February, successfully shot over Allen in the left corner. McBride and Hart were shut down from deep, but it didn’t matter. DiVincenzo was firing like he was at the shooting range while in the half-court and the defense in his space, plus he nailed one on the break.

The Knicks hoisted 14 more 3-pointers in the fourth, making five. Burks hit a bullseye over Dean Wade’s long limbs; Bogdanovic didn’t even see Georges Niang inches from his body; McBride canned two with Garland on him; and Hart splashed a stepback corner banger above Mobley, who is seven inches taller.

How the Cavaliers guarded the paint

The Knicks converted five of their 11 mid-range attempts and 58.3 percent (21-of-36) of their tries in the paint. Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims’ screening opened driving avenues against the Cavaliers’ drop coverage.

Ninety seconds into the second quarter, McBride and Sims attacked through pick-and-roll, and Mobley switched onto the ball. With a mean, right-handed hesitation dribble, McBride dropped Mobley and finished up close off the glass. Additionally, Hartenstein also beat Mobley from the top to the cup after faking a pass to the right and bumping him away with his hip. Additionally, Bogdanovic’s eyes sparkled with Niang trailing him into screens.

At halftime, the Knicks accumulated 24 paint points.

Subsequently, the visitors had their best frame producing inside in the third. Achiuwa picked up a loose ball in the interior and put it back to start the third quarter, then took Allen off the dribble for a left-handed layup and hooked over Wade. Hartenstein posterized Allen, getting loose after the Cavaliers blitzed DiVincenzo up top. DiVincenzo moved without the ball and pierced the lane for a quick catch and score. And the Knicks still scored four more times in the box before the fourth.

The Cavaliers held the Knicks to one of five baskets in the paint and 33 (1/3) percent midrange shooting in the last 12 minutes.

On the boards, The Cavaliers permitted 10 Knicks offensive rebounds to turn into eight second-chance points - six of the eight were from behind the arc. The hosts picked up 71.1 percent of available defensive rebounds.

Additionally, twenty percent of the Knicks' plays began in transition, scoring 142.9 points per that type of play, which is good enough for the 68th percentile of all games this season, per Cleaning the Glass (subscription required). Furthermore, the Cavaliers allowed just 11 fast-break points.

The Cleveland Cavaliers will have a chance to redeem themselves as they host the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, March 5 in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The game will tip off at 7:00 pm Eastern Time.

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