Cavs’ road woes illustrated by coach in black and white

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Mike Brown presented his players with a chart.

“I showed our guys three stats,” explained the Cavaliers coach.

One of the stats listed was something called “defensive efficiency.” According to Brown, that’s a whole bunch of defensive numbers compiled by others in the organization. Just know that they matter.

The other two things listed: Opponents’ field-goal percentage and opponents’ 3-point field-goal percentage.

“So I had those three things, and I had two columns,” Brown said.

He wrote numbers in each of the columns.

“For instance, in defensive efficiency, I think it said fourth and 25th,” Brown said. “After opponents’ field-goal percentage it was maybe fifth and 28th, or something like that. And after opponents’ 3-point field-goal percentage it was second and 30th. So I asked our guys, ‘Tell me the difference between the two columns.'”

One member of the roster guessed that the chart described the difference between the Cavs’ defense last season and the Cavs’ defense this season. Someone else guessed something else.

Neither player was correct — as Brown wrote the word “home” above one column and “away” above the other.

As you might have guessed, the good stats were the ones under “home.” The ones under “away”? Not so much.

“We’re second in the NBA of 30 teams, in defending the 3-point line at home. When we go on the road, we’re 30th,” Brown said. “That’s a huge difference.

As for opponents’ field-goal percentage?

“I think we’re like fifth in the NBA (at home). When we go on the road, it’s like 27th,” Brown said.

And defensive efficiency?

“We’re like fourth at home, in the whole NBA,” Brown said, before repeating himself for emphasis. “We’re fourth. When we go on the road, we’re like 25th or 28th or whatever it is.”

In case you’re wondering what all this is about, well, the Cavs are a miserable 1-10 on the road. They’re 7-3 at home (for 8-13 overall).

That’s not necessarily a huge surprise. It’s actually the way of the NBA. Winning on the road isn’t for the timid. Winning on the road also starts with defense — because it can be more difficult to make shots on someone else’s floor.

“We’re not moving the ball the right way,” added Anderson Varejao. “If you do that on the road, if you turn the ball over, teams will make you pay.”

The Cavs have two road games coming up: Friday at Orlando, then Saturday at defending back-to-back champion Miami.

Brown issued a message to his players.

“We need to play with more intensity, and we need to understand that shots aren’t always gonna go in, and we gotta accept it,” he said. “That’s the reality of playing on the road. We have to hang our hats on our identity, on the defensive end of the floor.”

He continued.

“Now, we can’t lose sight of what we’re trying to do offensively, by being stagnant with the ball, not pushing the basketball, not spacing the floor well, and so on and so forth,” he said. “We still have a lot of room to grow on that end of the floor, but we have to know that, hey, we gotta get stops.”

And why is that?

“The more stops you get, the more you’ll take the crowd out of the game,” Brown said. “The reality of it is, good crowds or even halfway decent crowds that make a little bit of noise can give anybody the extra energy they need to get over the hump.”

The Cavs have been better recently, winning four of five. But all four of those wins have come (you guessed it) at Quicken Loans Arena. The loss was one of those ugly blowout things in Atlanta.

Brown said a lot of it is a mindset.

“It’s mental toughness, physical toughness, grittiness, focus and the willingness to understand that, we may not make shots tonight, but we’re gonna keep pushing the pace to see if we can get easy buckets,” he said. “We’re going to keep trying to spread the floor. We’re going to share the basketball. We’re going to do all the things we know how to do offensively, even though it may not work.”

Even though it may not work? Well, that’s what D is for.

“But for sure I’m bringing my hard hat on the defensive end of the floor, and some grittiness,” Brown said. “Because it’s hard as heck to win on the road. If we ever get to that point, where we’re understanding that, then we have a more-than-better chance to have success.”

And the coach has the charts to prove it.

Cavaliers Tidbits

• Overall, the Cavs are sixth in the league in rebounding. Tristan Thompson is averaging 10.3 per game, with Varejao right behind him at 8.3.

• Offensively, it’s a different story. The Cavs are 21st in scoring (97.8) and 24th in assists (19.7). Brown is OK with the points per game, provided the Cavs defend like he thinks they’re capable.

• Kyrie Irving is averaging 20.5 points to lead the team. Dion Waiters (13.5), Thompson (11.5) and Jack (10.0) are the others scoring in double figures.

• No. 2 overall draft pick Victor Oladipo has been starting at point guard for the Magic and playing 31 minutes a game. Entering Wednesday night, he’s averaging 14.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists.

Twitter: @SamAmicoFSO