Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Korver needs to see more time in Game 2

Tyronn Lue says foot, minutes restriction were not an issue

Alex Hooper
April 15, 2018 - 7:02 pm
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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Cavaliers need Kyle Korver.

The Eastern Conference No. 4 seed was abysmal shooting from 3-point territory in their 98-80 playoff-opening loss to the Indiana Pacers, shooting 8-for-34 from deep. Korver, who was on a minutes restriction because of his ailing foot, played just four minutes and posted an 0-for-3 night, 0-for-2 from deep. Rodney Hood started in his place.

With the absence of Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers no longer have the firepower to outgun their opponents past poor defensive nights, especially not when they struggle from deep. Without one of the best 3-point marksmen of all time, they can become a mediocre offense.

On Sunday, the Wine and Gold took 41% of their overall shots from behind the arc, placing them in the 91st percentile of teams in any game this season. Meanwhile, their 24.2% mark from deep had them just in 8th percentile.

Hood, Kevin Love, George Hill, and JR Smith are all capable of carrying a load from deep, but Love and Smith were the only two to hit more than a single triple Sunday. LeBron James, Jeff Green, Jordan Clarkson and Jose Calderon all joined Korver in the 0-fer club, though that quintet all shot three-or-more times.

Without a viable 3-point threat, the Cavaliers also struggled from inside the arc, as the Pacers overloaded the paint to stop LeBron James, who missed all 7 of his shots outside of the restricted area.

More minutes were allocated to Green, whose offensive deficiencies are well known, in the absence of Korver. The Cavaliers posted a -36.3 net rating with Green on the floor (72 oRTG, 108.3 dRTG), and just a -3.1 net rating (99.1 oRTG, 102.2 dRTG) with him off the floor.

In no way can the team’s worst offensive performance be fully attributed to the loss of a player who averages 21.6 minutes per night as their points per possession (2nd percentile), effective FG% (10th), turnover percentage (13th), offensive rebound percentage (22nd) and FT rate (34th) were quite miserable.

In total, the wine and gold’s oRTG of 84.6 was their worst of the year. Their second-worst oRTG of the year came against the Heat on March 27th, when Korver was missing and Love left with a concussion.

Head coach Tyronn Lue said postgame that Korver’s limited stretch was not due to his foot or his minute restriction, inferring that his defense was the issue. The 37-year-old was -10 in the four minutes he played, but the Cavaliers are 7.8 points better on the season in 1498 minutes defensively with Korver on the floor this season (95th percentile). They were 5.5 points worse a year ago (12th) with Korver.

Perhaps Lue’s statement was simple gamesmanship, not letting on that Korver’s health is suffering, but the coach did admit that George Hill’s back problems were an issue. That adds a hint of sincerity to what Lue said, which would bring his decision into question.

Overall, the Pacers posted just a 105.4 oRTG (40th percentile), so it was not as if the team’s defense was their biggest struggle.

It would be easy to make a call in the heat of battle to go away from a player with a bad foot when your team is struggling, that much is true. Upon review, Korver’s involvement is simply one of the issues that plagued Lue and the Cavs, and it should be rectified, especially after such acute struggles on offense.

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