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Cleveland Cavaliers

Final thoughts: Nets 114, Cavs 101

By Jason Lloyd Published: November 14, 2012
Andy vs Lopez
Cavs center Anderson Varejao looks to pass as the Nets' Brook Lopez defends during the second half Tuesday in New York. The Nets won 114-101. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

BROOKLYN, N.Y.: The Cavs come limping home from this six-game trip with two major problems. One of them, at least theoretically, is easily correctable. The other is not.

The Cavs' defense has been atrocious all season (theoretically correctable). So has the bench (not so easy to fix). 

Scott grew tired of the bench's woes a few games ago and began shuffling the rotation, although it really didn't do any good. He has pounding the same defensive philosophies for the last three years, but nothing seems to be setting in.

So is it a coaching problem or a personnel problem? Probably a little of both.

The Cavs presently have the league's worst defense based on shooting percentage. Opponents are making 51 percent of their shots -- and the figure was even higher on this road trip (52 percent). 

Scott's teams have rarely been good defensively over the last seven years. Excluding  his 2009-10 season in New Orleans, since he was fired just nine games in, Scott's teams have ranked in the top 10 in opponents' shooting percentage once in the last seven years.

His Nets teams were very good defensively, but his Hornets teams were typically average. His Cavs teams have been atrocious. 

The Cavs have ranked 27th in the league in defensive field goal percentage both of Scott's years in charge. Improving defensively has been the focus of this team since summer league, yet somehow the Cavs are worse. 

It's still incredibly early, but no team has gone a whole season allowing an opponent to shoot better than 50 percent in 16 years. Celtics opponents shot 50 percent during the 1996-97 season, and not surprisingly, the Celtics won only 15 games.

The Cavs still don't defend the pick and roll the way Scott would like, often going behind (or under) screens instead of in front of the screener (over the screen). They fail to box out on missed shots, allowing easy putbacks. And they too often chase the ball and lose their man defensively. 

All of it would seem to be easily fixed, but the Cavs have failed to do it for two full seasons and they're off to a lousy start in Year 3. Tristan Thompson was drafted to be a defensive presence, but he has been mediocre this year.

Scouts have lamented Irving's lack of defense since he entered the league, and Irving conceded Tuesday he's playing at about a C level defensively. If he were being honest, Scott might grade him even lower.

The bench is what it is at this point. The Cavs could pursue a free agent such as Mickael Pietrus, but that's not likely. There is no immediate pressure to win now and the Cavs are continuing to rebuild. There's no sense giving minutes to a guy off the street like Pietrus when he isn't part of the future equation and the Cavs believe they're still another high lottery pick away from really making noise in the East.

More than likely, what you see is what you get. If anything, the Cavs could go the Development League route and look for another hidden gem such as what they found with Alonzo Gee. That's probably the extent of their free agent shopping for now.

The bigger concern right now is the defense. There has been zero improvement, only regression. If it doesn't get any better, this team has no chance of competing against even the middle-of-the-pack teams in the NBA.

Stats

Cavs

Anderson Varejao 35 points, 18 rebounds 

Kyrie Irving 34 points, 8 assists, 14-14 FTs

Tristan Thompson 14 points, 5 rebounds

Nets

Deron Williams 26 points, 10 assists

Joe Johnson 25 points, 16 in fourth quarter

Brook Lopez 23 points, 7 rebounds

Key stat

Five of the six opponents on this road trip shot better than 50 percent against the Cavs. The combined shooting percentage of all six teams was 52 percent.

It was over when...

Byron Scott went to his bench to start the second quarter and the Cavs went scoreless for 4 1/2 minutes. A one-point Cavs lead at the end of the first quarter disintegrated into a 22-point deficit at the half.

He said it

"There was nothing there defensively. We’ve got to get more guys who are going to be competitive and passionate about the defensive end. Right now we’ve got three: Boobie Gibson, Alonzo Gee and Anderson Varejao. We’ve got to get other guys to join into the party. It’s as simple as that." -- coach Byron Scott

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