It’s that wonderful time of year for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The time where effort no longer is missing, LeBron James hits his playoff gear, and the team unveils their secret defensive game plan.
Last season the Cavs defense actually got worse in the playoffs last season, falling from a DRTG of 108 to 108.3, but it didn’t stop the team from making it to the Finals. It also hasn’t stopped the team from discussing their new playoff game-plan on defense:
“We’ll probably do things we haven’t done all season when it comes to the playoffs, things we’ve been working on all year,” Lue said. “It’s the same thing we do every playoffs. So, we’ll see what happens.”
Of course, the defensive rating going up in the playoffs isn’t an honest representation of whether or not it improved. Playing a series against four playoff teams, that are scheming and adjusting just for you is different than a season-long average, held up by wins over bad teams.
The defensive rating was actually ranked eighth out of the 16 playoff teams, so a noteworthy improvement from their No. 22 ranked defense on the year, and No. 29 ranked defense post All-Star break.
This season the Cavs have shown some growth on the defensive side of the floor. While their 29th ranked defense on the season isn’t great, they’ve been the 19th best defense post All-Star break, despite dealing with countless injuries to key players.
I’m not convinced that there is a huge change in the team’s defense come playoffs. The ceiling of the team defensively is still dictated by the players they have on the roster.
The tangible changes we’ve seen in the past is LeBron James trying again in playoffs, and Tyronn Lue taking over the coaching of the defense. In the playoffs, we’ve seen the Cavs tailor their defense to try and take away what the opponent does best.
While that strategy has worked against teams like the Toronto Raptors, they simply didn’t have the personnel to actually execute against the Golden State Warriors.
Will whatever changes the Cavs make this post-season be enough to make another championship run? Will it matter if they actually get better? Will the absence of time together prevent the team from having a competent defense?
The Cavs defense secret sauce is my one-armed-man, my white whale. Some question whether or not it exists, but I’m not going to rest until I find it. With only one game left in the regular season, we’ll have our defensive questions answered in the near future.