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2019 NBA Playoffs Second Round Thoughts

It’s been a long time since I did a podcast.  I stumble over myself, mispronounce words, go off on tangents and the mic is terrible.  Just another OldMan podcast:

1:10 – Why is Andrew Bogut playing?  Will the Warriors lose to Houston?

7:25 – Tip of the cap to Daryl Morey.  Is Houston better than they were last season?

11:30 – Is Steve Kerr an idiot?

13:30 – East Preview

15:40 – Milwaukee vs Boston

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How Boston Got The Go-Ahead Bucket Versus Philadelphia

I’m either going to do a write up or podcast previewing both conference finals but I wanted to briefly break down the sequence of events that lead to Boston beating Philadelphia in five:

Personally, I would’ve called an offensive foul on Dario Saric but I was fine with the no call.  Even though Marcus Smart seems like a mismatch in the post for the 6’10 Saric Smart keeps a strong base, doesn’t bite on the rip-thru and frustrates Saric into a forced back down.  That’s not quite the efficient look I would’ve ran with 43 seconds left.  Horford gets the loose ball, starts a break and wisely kicks it out to Terry Rozier.

Brad Stevens doesn’t call a time out to draw up a play and instead trusts his players during crunch time.  Rozier and Horford proceed to set up a side pick-and-roll.

JJ Reddick and Joel Embiid do what most teams run when covering side pick-and-rolls and “ICE” the action; using the sideline/baseline as an extra defender.  And while Saric is technically in solid position I personally would’ve been more aggressive on the coverage.  Instead of zoning up between Horford and Smart I would’ve denied one pass away and forced Rozier to lob it over to Marcus Smart above the break.  Smart is a worse three point shooter than Horford and the extra time for the pass to make its way over to Smart increases recovery time on rotations. 

But with Saric zoning up Rozier delivers a bounce pass to Horford starting a sequence that lead to the go-ahead bucket.  You can already see Jayson Tatum start his move to the basket with Ben Simmons ball watching.

Smart play by the rookie.  Tatum anticipated the ball reversal and with Ben Simmons ball watching Tatum backdoors to the basket.

TJ Mcconnell did the best job he could on the help but the play was unsalvageable.  The next play was a missed layup than turnover by Joel Embiid.  There might have been a foul on Embiid’s release by Aron Baynes but that’s a tough call to make at the juncture of the game.

I really liked this play because it felt like a microcosm of the series: even though the Sixers had more talent, when it came time to close the game the Sixers either committed unnecessary fouls, terrible turnovers or boneheaded mistakes.  Overall this was a bad matchup for the Sixers. Having Horford as Ben Simmons kryptonite, length/athleticism on the perimeter minimizing space for the shooters and Embiid having his troubles in the post knocked Philadelphia out of their rhythm.

The Sixers still have a bright future and I’ll eventually do a write up about their possibilities this off-season.  For now….Cleveland vs Boston.

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If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck…its probably a duck

I’ve been hypercritical of the Cavs defense all year; their rotations, communication and lack of effort has been a consistent problem.  No team has won a NBA finals with a defensive efficiency outside of the top ten since the 2001 Lakers.  Even the Cavs last year and the Mavs in 2011 had top ten defenses.  The 2017 Cavs have the 22nd ranked defense…gulp.

Game one and Game two of the 2017 NBA finals has been no different defensively for the Cavs.  Now, playing the Warriors doesn’t make things on defense any easier either but here are four plays that are indicative of the Cavs defensive woes:

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This is a baseline out-of-bounds play.  The Cavs have been losing track of their player assignments on out-of-bounds and after-time-out plays all series long.  Notice that Lebron has his hands on his hips.

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Kyle Korver loses track of Klay Thompson and gets beat backdoor.  Lebron should be the next man in line to try to wall off the cut.  Again, notice where Lebron has his hands.

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Curry makes a nice pass to the cutting Thompson.  Not only has Lebron taken just one hand off his hip but he hasn’t even taken a step in the right direction yet.

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Way too easy.  Even though Korver is the one at fault for the defensive breakdown, there was absolutely no help defense.  Lebron should’ve been there to help but instead had his hands on his hips for most of the play.  Poor coverage on these BLOB and ATO plays have to stop if the Cavs want to slow down the Warriors.

The next play is a simple spread pick-and-roll.

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David West sets a good screen on Lebron James; Lebron gets dislodged from his cover and chases to recover.  Kevin Love should be there to cut off Durants air space until Lebron returns.

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Look at how much space Kevin Love gives Kevin Durant.  Does Love think Durant is Harrison Barnes?  This is a simple play but terrible judgment.  If the coverage calls for a double team or trap then Love should be up more, especially since the screener was David West and he’s not a threat from three, so Love can smother Durant until Lebron gets back, then Love can recover onto West.  If the coverage is to “down” the pick-and-roll, well, thats just a bad coverage to play.

This next play is another spread high-pick-and-roll.

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Durant and Thompson are in the corners, Green is lingering right low-block and Andre Iguodala sets a screen for Curry.

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It looks like the pick-and-roll coverage is to corral the ball handler.  But thats a tough call to make if your perimeter defenders stick to the outside shooters.  Iggy does a nice job of timing his roll.

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Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are still containing Curry on the drive.  Lebron and Richard Jefferson are still sticking on the outside shooters.  Tristan Thompson is still connected to Green lingering baseline.  And no one is accounting for Iggy.

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Curry makes a laser pass to Iggy for an easy dunk.  This play is a problem for a lot of teams.  Do you stick to the outside shooters or do you help on the dive?  For the Cavs, this play is really a two-fold problem: coverage and personal. The coverage should really be for Love to show or hedge on the pick-and-roll so he delays Currys drive and then Kyrie has more time to recover onto Curry while Love can make a better attempt to wall off Iggy’s dive.  However, Love isn’t the most versatile of defenders so asking him to cover a bunch of ground is a lot for him.  I don’t know if problems like these are fixable.  

This last play is another backdoor.

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Green has the ball up top, Curry and Durant are at the left wing while Iggy and Thompson are at the right wing.

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Curry sets up a down screen on Lebron.

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Lebron braces himself for the play on the screen while Durant rejects the screen and cuts backdoor.

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Love should be the next rotation for help but hasn’t taken his eye off Green the whole play.

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Green makes another top notch pass to Durant for the easy bucket.  Love should’ve been there to wall off Durant but this play isn’t his fault.  Lebron should’ve read Durant’s use of the screen better and he should’ve communicated right away to weak side for help.

I picked these four plays because they’re not overly complex; in fact they’re simple.  But they do highlight the fundamental problems the Cavs have while guarding the Warriors.

I think Game three the Cavs defense will be better; home crowd, energy, focus.  I think they sure up these simple mistakes.  Overall, I don’t see the Cavs making a comeback.  The Cavs defensive problems are too deep for them to win 4 out of 5.  They should get at least one game….right?