Cavs focus on offensive problems leading up to Game 3 vs. Celtics

Team knows a strong start at home is critical Saturday night

Daryl Ruiter
May 18, 2018 - 2:09 pm

© David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

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Independence, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Cavaliers have identified their problems from the first 2 games of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The trick now is fixing them.

Physicality, ball movement, aggressiveness and offensive flow have all been contributing factors to their 0-2 deficit to Boston and what the Cavs have spent the last 2 days addressing in practice prior to Game 3 Saturday night.

“We have to come out with a sense of urgency, looking to attack early,” Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue said Friday. “Don't ease into the game and let this team off the hook. We know they've played well at home. They had two big games, so now it's our turn.”

While LeBron James continues to put up incredible numbers, the supporting cast isn’t doing their part.

The lack of ball and player movement is a problem and it shows when you look at the Cavs’ assist-to-field goal ratio, which is 36 assists on 68 shots made, through the first 2 games and James has 21 of those.

Credit the Celtics’ physicality defensively for holding Cleveland to an average of 88.5 points per game in the series which is nearly 15 points below their scoring average in the first 2 series, but also there’s blame to be shared by the Cavs and they know it.

“That's actually something we've been working on the past few days, just making sure that we have a lot of movement, we're not stagnant,” forward/center Kevin Love, who is averaging 19.5 points and 11.5 rebounds while shooting 14 of 32 from the field in the series, said. “There have been times throughout this run so far, especially in the second half, where we've either thrown the ball into ‘Bron and myself and we've kind of stopped. We're finding ways to just get the ball to the next side. If it's swung, don't go back to the same side, kind of cross-grain it, get it to the next man, and kind of make those swing-swing passes because you're seeing that a lot. You see it in the Western Conference games with both those teams.

“Boston is doing it a lot, so we need to follow suit and do that, as well, get better shots.”

The 3-point shot also isn't falling so far against the Celtics.

The Cavs have hit just 14 of 57 tries from deep. That comes out to 24.6 percent. J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver and Love, who are supposed to be the 3 most dependable sharpshooters, are a combined 6 for 27.

"I think we had better shots in the Toronto series, but that's what happens when you advance in the Playoffs," Korver, who is just 3 of 10 from beyond the arc in the series, said. "I mean, like we're not expecting that we can run the play right and everybody will get open shots. That's not the way it works anymore. There's four teams left for a reason. We've just got to be ready for the shots that we get and know that they're not -- that they might not all be wide open ones, but we've got to start making some."

And when things aren’t going their way, they can’t let the roof cave in on them like the second half of Game 2 that saw them outscored 59-39 and a 7-point halftime lead turn into a 13-point loss.

“[In the] second half we got frustrated and we just slowed down,” Korver said. “I mean, we were walking the ball up the court. They were into us. We weren't getting to our spots. We didn't get many -- we didn't take many good shots in the second half. Credit them for that, but there's a lot of things we can do better.”

One at a time – The Cavs’ approach trailing 0-2 is simple: 1 game at a time.

“We're down 0-2. No need to panic. We've played a Game 7, so that's the danger,” Lue said. “The danger is not like we come out and don't play well tomorrow, lose, it's over. We still have games to play. It's not like it's a Game 7. They did a good job of taking care of their home court. They played well. Now we're back at home. The Q will be rocking tomorrow. We'll be ready to go.”

They’ll need to win 4 of the next 5 to advance to a fourth straight NBA Finals but they can’t approach Game 3 thinking like that.  

“We've got to win one,” Lue said. “That's our main focus, to come out there tomorrow night. We're not looking at four out of five. We're looking at winning tomorrow and then seeing what happens from there.”

Hot hand – LeBron James makes it a habit to be the first one on the floor and the last one to leave and Friday was no exception.

James was the last player remaining on the floor and he used the time to work on his 3-point shot.

At one point, James hit 15 in a row before expressing his frustration at missing on a bid for 16 straight makes.