Back-to-back woes,could Cleveland beat Boston?Jersey

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Back-to-back woes,could Cleveland beat Boston?Jersey

Messaggiodi Helena il 6 aprile 2017, 3:04

The winner of Wednesday's clash not only claims that top seed, but has the inside track to hang onto it as the playoffs quickly approach. If the Celtics win, ESPN BPI's gives them 65.8 percent chance of retaining the No. 1 seed for the playoffs. For the Cavaliers, a win on Wednesday night would give them an 86.7 percent chance of holding onto that spot.
While both teams hold identical records (50-27), it's been a tale of two different directions for the Cavs and Celtics since March.
The Celtics enter Wednesday's game having won of nine their past 11 games, while the Cavs are just 5-5 in their past 10.
Defense has played a big part in both teams' recent fortunes. Since January, the Celtics' defensive efficiency has improved each month. Since the start of March, the Cavs' defense has been a nightmare. Cleveland has the second-worst defensive efficiency ranking in the NBA in the past month-plus and has been giving up 113.2 points per 100 possessions.
For the season, the Cavs rank 23rd in defensive efficiency. The last team to win an NBA title while not ranking in the top 10 was the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers.
While the Cavs have struggled on one side of the floor, they thrive on the other end. Cleveland has the NBA's third-ranked offense and is averaging 13 3-pointers per game. In Tuesday's 122-102 win over the Orlando Magic, the Cavs hit 18 3-pointers and became just the third team in NBA history to make 1,000 3s in a season.
If they Celtics can keep the Cavs under 100, they'll put themselves in great position for a win. Boston is 21-1 this season when allowing fewer than 100 points.
It is the Cavs' penultimate back-to-back of the season. There are none of those challenging sets in the playoffs and that could be especially relevant when evaluating this team. Fatigue has seemed to be a significant opponent this season, which James and coach Tyronn Lue have referenced recently by saying the team looks "slow." Simply put, when the Cavs aren't rested, they have been awful.
It's an important game -- the teams have matching 50-27 records and the winner would hold a one-game lead for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with four games remaining for each team. Cleveland would hold the tiebreaker based on conference winning percentage should Boston win tonight and the two teams finish with identical overall records. But the Cavs are in what they've repeatedly shown is a bad spot for them.
They are 1-9 in the second of back-to-back games on the road this season. This is also their fifth game in seven days, coming off a month when they set a franchise record for most road games with 12. Knowing that, it wasn't a surprise for LeBron James to downplay the moment.
"I'm not one to get caught up in regular season big games," said James, who has reached the NBA Finals playing as a No. 2 seed five times in his career. "I've been to six straight Finals; I'm the last person to ask."
Perhaps it's because they're the second-oldest team in the league; perhaps it's because James has skipped the second night of a back-to-back four times; perhaps it's a focus issue. Whatever it is, when the Cavs don't have rest they aren't even a playoff team, much less a championship contender.
When the Cavs are playing with zero days of rest, they score 108 points per 100 possessions, which is a respectable ninth in the league. They allow 112 points, which is a woeful 27th. They have issues defending the pick-and-roll and in transition in the best of times -- Lue has been in a season-long search mode to find schemes that work in balancing the floor so they're better able to get back on defense. When their legs are heavy, it can get ugly.
It gets even worse after a flight. When the Cavs are on the road for a back-to-back, they allow 113 points per 100 possessions and get outscored by 11 points per 100 possessions. Since many games these days are right around 100 possessions, that means playing the Cavs on the back end has been nearly a guaranteed blowout for the home team.
If James doesn't play in those spots, forget it -- the Cavs get outscored by 18 points per 100 possessions. It's a slaughter.
They score 112 points per 100 possessions, second-best in the NBA, as their shooters have their legs. Scoring engines James and Kyrie Irving, unsurprisingly, improve with a little rest.
All of James' numbers are better no matter how you break them up. He averages one more rebound and two more assists with one day of rest versus back-to-backs and his free throw percentage is five points higher with a day off.
It's more glaring with Irving. He averages 21.7 points on the second night of back-to-backs and 26.1 points when he has one or two days' rest. His 3-point percentage jumps from 33 percent to 41 percent with the day or two of rest.
Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson average more rebounds with rest, Kyle Korver averages two more points per game, Iman Shumpert's steals jump by 30 percent, and so on.
Indeed they are. After sweeping a three-game homestand with a 122-102 win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday, the Cavs are now 31-8 at home, tied for second-best in the league. The rest guaranteed by the playoffs and possible home-court advantage throughout the East playoffs seem to be rather valuable in the postseason.
The Cavs could end up looking more like the team that was 28-8 at one point this season and not the team that has lost 11 of its past 21 games as it manages a road-heavy schedule with few days off.
"I'm glad we get to see [the Celtics] again in the regular season and I know they're excited as well," Irving said. "It's great competition and we'll see where we stand."
There are a few reasons why the Cavs have struggled since the All-Star break, but a big one is they're about to play their sixth back-to-back in the past five weeks.
Give the Cavs some rest, though, and you rediscover the elite team that remains in contention for the East's top seed. When the Cavs have at least one day off, they're 43-17, the third-best record in those situations in the league behind the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.
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Iscritto il: 24 marzo 2017, 16:08

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