Can the Cavaliers win a series, a conference championship, the NBA Finals, with no defense?
Not average defense, not marginal defense, but NO defense?
We’re about to find out, because that’s what the Cavs are trying to do. They are trying to bravely go where few, if any, elite teams have gone. They are trying to win postseason games and series strictly with their offense.
The Cavs are putting all their eggs in the same basket they are trying to put all their shots.
The Cavs’ attitude, the message they are sending to the other team at the start of each playoff game is this: “We don’t care how many points you score against our defense, because we’re going to score more points than you. No matter what. We just are.”
You know, the old, cockeyed “the best defense is a great offense” approach.
The Cavs are counting on it working for them in this postseason, because they really don’t have any other choice. Their defense is abysmal, and they continue to show no inclination to do anything about it.
Their response to playing poor defense isn’t to play better defense. It’s to play even more spectacular offense.
In the Cavs’ win over Indiana in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love combined to score 89 points.
That’s the same number of points the entire Golden State Warriors TEAM scored in the Cavs’ 93-89 victory in Game 7 of last year’s Finals. That Cavs team played defense. This Cavs team doesn’t. And it’s getting worse, not better.
During 2016-17 regular season the Cavs ranked 20th in the NBA in points allowed, giving up an average of 107.2 per game. That’s a bad number with which to defend the land, and in the first two playoff games against Indiana it actually went up, not down.
The Pacers averaged 109.5 points in each of the first two games, and Indiana is a mediocre offensive team, ranking 15th in points per game in the regular season at 105.1. But in facing the defending champs in the playoffs, the Pacers, with just one dominant scorer on their roster — Paul George — are scoring four more points per game than they did in the regular season.
If the Cavs’ defense is giving up almost 110 points per game to a pedestrian Pacers team, how badly will that defense be torched by subsequent playoff opponents, with more shooters and better scorers?
In their march to the title last year the Cavs swept Detroit and held the Pistons to an average of just 95 points per game. They swept Atlanta and held the Hawks to 99.5 points per game. The Cavs beat Toronto in six games, and held the Raptors to 90.3 points per game.
Then came the Warriors, and the Finals. Chew on this: The Pacers in Game 2 this year scored more points (111) than the 73-win Warriors did in any of their seven games against the Cavs in last year’s Finals.
In the Finals, the Warriors averaged 99.8 points per game vs. the Cavs’ defense.
In Games 1 and 2 vs. the Cavs’ defense this year, the Pacers averaged over 10 points more per game (109.5) than the Warriors did in last year’s Finals.
Is this any way to throw a parade?
The Pacers, who shot 46 percent from the field this year, shot 49 and 51 percent from the field in the first two games against the Cavs. In Game 7 against Golden State last year the Cavs held the Warriors to 40 percent from the field.
So what we have here this year is a Cavs team that is counting on its mega-Bron offense to carry its comatose defense.
Here, moreover, is what’s scary for the rest of the playoff field, and those who would prefer that the Cavs knock it off with all these white-knuckle finishes: The Cavs’ offense might actually pull it off.
This can be an unstoppable offensive team.
After averaging 104 points per game as NBA champions last year, the Cavs averaged 110 per game this year. Their field goal percentage went from 46 percent last year to 47 percent this year.
When healthy, engaged and playing adult-minded offensive basketball, the Cavs are a major load. When three players can throw 89 points at the other team, good luck trying to stop all that.
The Cavs wallpaper all their defensive warts with world-class offense.
In the first game against the Pacers, the Cavs missed 13 free throws — and won. In the second game against the Pacers the Cavs committed 19 turnovers — and won.
Nothing else matters, it seems, but this: The Big Three is averaging 80 points in the two games — Irving 30, LeBron 28 and Love 22.
Defense? They don’t need no stinking defense!
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