By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
INDEPENDENCE: The difference between the Cavaliers’ performance at home versus the road can be summed up in one nifty chart Mike Brown showed his players this week.
The Cavaliers rank fourth in the league in defensive field-goal percentage at home but 26th on the road. They’re second in the NBA in guarding the 3-point line at home but 27th on the road. And their overall defensive efficiency rating, which measures the number of points a team allows per 100 possessions (the standard in an NBA game), is fifth at home and 26th on the road.
Given those numbers, it’s easy to see how the Cavs are 7-3 at home and a league-worst 1-10 on the road.
“That is a huge difference,” Brown said. “I told our guys, ‘I don’t know what we’re doing on the road, but we’ve got to change it.’ This is as black and white as it can be.”
The Cavs get another opportunity this weekend to correct all that has gone wrong on the road when they play at the Orlando Magic on Friday and at the Miami Heat on Saturday.
The Cavs have won four of their past five to pull within a half-game of the Chicago Bulls for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but recent road wins by the Magic and Utah Jazz mean the Cavs’ road mark is officially the worst in the league. It seems most everyone on the team has a theory as to why the huge discrepancy, but no one has been able to fix it.
“I think it’s because we’re having a lot of ups and downs on offense and defense, especially offense,” Anderson Varejao said. “We’re not moving the ball the right way. If you do that on the road, if you turn the ball over, teams will make you pay for that. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why we’re struggling on the road.”
He has a point. The Cavs had turnovers on four consecutive possessions and five of six during the second quarter of the victory Tuesday against the New York Knicks. It allowed the Knicks to score 11 consecutive points and tie the score that should’ve been a blowout.
But offensive turnovers doesn’t necessarily equate into the home/road statistical discrepancies defensively.
“The key for us is to come out with the same mentality in terms of executing on the defensive end and then offensively playing within our system,” Tristan Thompson said. “We have to know to win on the road, you have to be better by 10 points just to win by one point.”
Opponents are shooting 42 percent at Quicken Loans Arena and 47 percent in Cavs road games. On average, teams are getting four more shots at the Q but making 2½ fewer of the shots.
Opponents are shooting 30.7 percent on 3-pointers at the Q, but 40.6 percent in road games.
Brown was astonished at the home/away splits and seemed most surprised by the defensive efficiency rating. The Cavs are allowing an average of 96.2 points per 100 possessions at home, which is a shade better than the San Antonio Spurs (96.3) and significantly better than the Miami Heat (101.2).
“What that means to me is mental toughness, physical toughness, grittiness, focus and the willingness to understand that we may not make shots tonight, but we’re going to keep pushing the pace to get the easy buckets,” Brown said. “We’re going to keep trying to spread the floor and share the basketball. We’re going to keep trying to do all the things we know how to do offensively, even though it may not work as well. But for sure I’m bringing my hard hat on the defensive end of the floor, and I’m bringing some grittiness because it’s hard as heck to win on the road.
“If we can ever get to that point where we’re understanding that, then we have a more-than-better chance to have success.”
Irving second in voting
Kyrie Irving is second among guards in the Eastern Conference in All-Star voting, according to the first batch of returns announced Thursday. Irving has 365,712 votes, trailing only the Heat’s Dwyane Wade (365,712). Derrick Rose, who is out for the rest of the regular season for the Bulls, is a distant third with 272,410.
Irving leads all Eastern Conference point guards in scoring at 20.5 points and is also averaging 6 assists, but he’s shooting just .407 in his third season. His popularity nationally has been aided by the “Uncle Drew’ character he created in conjunction with Pepsi Max. He was named to the All-Star team last season as an injury replacement.
Voting concludes Jan. 20. The starters will be announced Jan. 23.
Carrick Felix, Sergey Karasev and Henry Sims were recalled after playing in the Canton Charge game Wednesday, but Felix did not make the trip to Florida because of soreness in his left knee.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.