The Cleveland Cavaliers face off against the Washington Wizards tonight in the nation’s capital.
Article continues below ...
Nov 10, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; President Barack Obama (M) poses holding a gift jersey with Vice President Joe Biden (M-L) and members of the Cleveland Cavaliers at an event honoring the 2016 NBA world champion Cavaliers on the South Lawn at the White House. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY NETWORK
The Cleveland Cavaliers (6-1) face off against the Washington Wizards (2-5) tonight in a game that should have been a test against one of the playoff-worthy teams in the NBA. However, the Washington Wizards have been struggling. Their offense ranks 22nd in the NBA with 101.4 points per game and their defense ranks 15th in the NBA as they allow 103.7 points per game.
It’s not good in the nation’s capital. While Otto Porter has been off to a sensational start and Wall is his usual self to start the season, Bradley Beal has started off the season could from behind the line and the Wizards bench depth is lacking on the perimeter.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers dropped their first game against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night as they failed to show defensive effort for a full 48 minutes and became a predictable offense without a second point guard to get their big guns involved.
The team will look to bounce back against what looks to be inferior competition. Adversity is good for every team and this is the Cavaliers first chance this season to show their mettle after a loss. After visiting the White House yesterday (as the President honored them for their triumph in the NBA Finals), the Cavs should be well-rested, focused and energized for tonight’s game.
Nov 5, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith (5) reacts to a three point score against the Philadelphia 76ers during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Cleveland Cavaliers won 102-101. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Hot Three-Point Shooting
The Washington Wizards have had quite a bit of trouble defending the three this season. While allowing 29.0 threes per game, opponents are shooting 38.6 percent from behind the line. Despite the Wizards having players capable of defending individually, they’re a poor defensive group as a unit. The Wizards poor effort on closeouts and rotations resembles the Cavs lack of effort at times. The difference is that the Wizards don’t have a in-house SWAT team of elite snipers. In trying to catch up to a big lead from the Cavaliers, the Washington Wizards will be an inefficient team tonight.
This season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have taken 35.7 threes per game and made 36.4 of their attempts. The Cavaliers can take advantage of the Wizards team defense by continuing the ball movement that’s led to their offense being one of the best in the league. The main catalyst for hot shooting will be LeBron James‘ ability as the primary playmaker, unless the Wizards decide to make James beat them by himself with a focused effort on stopping the other players. J.R. Smith should look to take more threes within the flow of the offense. Nonetheless, it should be raining threes in the nation’s capital.
Oct 27, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (13) and forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) and Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver (26) compete for a loose ball during the first half at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Keeping A Body On Otto Porter
Otto Porter has been on a tear so far. In seven games this season, he’s more than doubled his scoring numbers despite only shooting 31.8 percent from three-point range. He’s done this by being masterful off-the-ball. He makes timely cuts to the basket, he’s always available near the rim for a putback (3.1 offensive rebounds per game), he’s a great finisher in transition and he’s been incredibly efficient in the lane and the midrange. He’s scored from these areas as a shooter in pick-and-roll and it would serve the Cavs well to keep a body on Porter.
While James likes to concede a bit of space to his matchups in man-to-man defense, that finesse style of play isn’t advisable against Porter. Porter, whose length bothers opponents, weighs nearly 60 pounds less than James. Being that this is James, that’s 60 pounds of mostly muscle. James should use his physical advantage to keep Porter out of the lane and away from the rim. Richard Jefferson could also find himself on Porter and would likewise be best served keeping a body on one of the most improved players in the league so far. Jefferson usually plays tight and active defense and will need to keep that up against Porter. Both forwards will also need to focus on boxing out.
Oct 25, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) fight for position with with New York Knicks center Joakim Noah (13) and forward Carmelo Anthony (7) in the first half at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The Washington Wizards have two players that average 3.1 offensive rebounds per game in Porter and Marcin Gortat. It will be up to the Cavs frontcourt to box out both Porter and Gortat consistently. This will mean that Thompson, who puts a lot more effort into positioning himself for offensive rebounds than defensive ones, will need to be a focused on keeping Gortat off the glass. While this could mean less lobs for James, who can’t leak out in transition if he’s boxing Porter out underneath the basket, it could result in a lot of straight-line rim-runs and kick-outs to shooters.
The nation could also see a bird sighting. Chris “Birdman” Andersen hasn’t played much this season as the team’s designated “enforcer”. Yet, as a couple of particular Cavs find themselves banging for position down low more than usual, Andersen can be a great relief option for Tristan Thompson in the frontcourt. Andersen, while 38 years old, can do everything Thompson does albeit on a lesser scale. Andersen, who has a shot-blocker’s nature, will have to resist the tendency to leave his feet when he tries to block some shots so he can remain in position for a defensive rebound.
Nov 9, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) is fouled by Boston Celtics forward Amir Johnson (90) during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Make John Wall Win By Himself
John Wall is the main scorer (21.3 points per game) and facilitator (9.2 assists per game), and thus playmaker, for the Washington Wizards. He’s a gifted athlete with the ball in his hands that shoots a sparkling 46.2 percent on long-range twos. Kyrie Irving, while being a dynamic offensive player, isn’t suited to handle Wall’s speed and athleticism. With that being said Irving shouldn’t be the player guarding Wall. Iman Shumpert is the Cavs best option for defending the Wizards super-speedy point guard. However, as long as Irving is the point guard in the starting lineup, the Cavs best defense against Wall will be to let him be his own offense.
By preventing Wall from being efficient in the pick-and-roll the Cavs will accomplish that. To do that, the Cavs have to stay with the screener and allow Wall to try finish in the paint or shoot. With Porter and Gortat being Wall’s main options in the pick-and-roll, Kevin Love, Channing Frye or Andersen will be the Cavs last line of defense. Love makes the best rotations, Frye has great length and Andersen is a rim-protector so the Cavs paint defense should be solid. Wall will have to make a tough shot over the outstretched arms of James, Jefferson, or Thompson.
In all of this, the Cavs guards must siphon out to the Wizards wings and prevent them from being passing options for Wall. In transition, the best the Cavs can do is make sure a player stays on Markieff Morris and Beal and that the other three don’t give up on the play. The best way to prevent a Wall fast break, nonetheless, will be the Cavs being mistake-free and getting back quickly after they score.
Nov 10, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; President Barack Obama speaks at an event honoring the 2016 NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers on the South Lawn at the White House. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY NETWORK
LeBron Putting On A Show For President Obama
James usually likes to put on a show in front of President Obama. After yesterday’s White House visit honoring the Cleveland Cavaliers victory, he should be excited to put on another display that represents “hope and change”.
"I said World Champion and Cleveland in the same sentence. That's what we're talking about when we talk about hope & change." – Obama
In the preseason, James had put forth a beautiful shooting effort from the midrange. President Obama, who is a Chicago native, believes Michael Jordan is the best player in NBA history and that the 1996-1997 Chicago Bulls team was the greatest team in NBA history. In front of the current President of the United States, James does his due diligence to re-enact some of that midrange magic that Jordan was known for.
He’ll need to have this type of performance again for the Cleveland Cavaliers to win. The Washington Wizards have players suited to match up with Irving and Love defensively, however, they don’t have any player that matches up well against James.
Oct 18, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue reacts from the sidelines in the second half at the Jerome Schottenstein Center. The Wizards won 96-91. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Cavaliers should defeat the Washington Wizards and the game shouldn’t be close if they execute on both ends of the floor for an entire 48 minutes. However, that’s been the theme for the Cleveland Cavaliers all season. It seems like it’s inevitable for the Cavaliers to let off the gas when they have their opponents against the ropes.
If the Cavs hope to take that next step forward as an elite team, knocking their opponents through the ropes when they’re all but blown out will need to be their reality, not merely a fantasy.
The Cleveland Cavaliers would be wise to extend their frontcourt rotation to deal with the Washington Wizards focus on crashing the glass, they would also be wise to shore up some of their lineups so that there’s always a facilitator on the floor. That facilitator shouldn’t always be Irving or James.
Nonetheless, tonight’s game will be an exciting and revealing one for the Cleveland Cavaliers, as they face off against a foe that could meet in the playoffs.