I visited the Indiana Pacers and Minnesota Timberwolves locker rooms before they played and beat the Cavs last week. Both of them had virtually the exact same scouting report up on the dry-erase board. They read something like this:
"Make them play half court. Slow tempo. Stop the ball. No fast breaks."
There's no espionage there, these aren't industry secrets. In the NBA, two things exist in incredible abundance: extreme paranoia and carnal knowledge of sets, plays, trends, and styles. NBA advance scouts work in teams with binoculars, listening devices and pages of play diagrams. By this point in the season, the entire NBA knows the Cavs plays and what they're called.
Just to give you an example, I've seen the LA Clippers advance scout at least four times at Cavs games already. They play twice in four days this week. Before that, I saw the Pacers scout come to two or three straight games.
So here's my point, the scouts came and watched the Cavs rip teams apart by running and gunning and figured it might be a good idea to keep LeBron James and Larry Hughes out of transition. The Pacers and Timberwolves are also good half court defensive teams, so they were also playing to their strengths. But the league has figured out that when playing the Cavs you need to make them play half court offense. Which is why the Cavs have to figure out how to play better half court offense.
I give my opinion in my Sunday column, which is to take advantage of Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Mike Brown's reaction is to play better defense. This is sound thinking, because in the playoffs every game is a half court game and the team that plays better defense usually wins. However, this is November and they badly need to get better in the half-court.
They are inserting new plays all the time, but really only a handful seem to work in the half court. As Mike Brown taught me during one of his media practices, the Cavs offense calls for lots of movement if the original play breaks down. Well, they haven't been doing it recently. In the last two losses, there's been a lot of LeBron dribbling the ball and everyone else standing around...where have we seen that before.
The Cavs have three days off to work on it, let's see how they respond. After their last two-game losing skid, they won eight straight.
Now, for my usual dose of The NBA Beat Life:
No seriously -- and I realize before I write this that I am opening myself to criticism in the comments section (that means you, Tucker) -- I saw Jared get up to go to the concession stand at least three times. And this was on Thanksgiving night! Perhaps those subs are getting a little tiresome.
Damon Jones loves the new dress code, he always shows up dressed to the nines. The other night he comes into the locker room, last to arrive as is his ritual, decked out. I mumbled to Luke Jackson that all he need was a cane to complete the outfit and LJ33 shouts it at DJ. "These ain't even pimp clothes," Jones said back. Then he got into a disagreement with Drew Gooden over thread counts.