Cleveland Cavaliers Start Hot vs. Hawks


Source: Erik Drost, https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrost88/

I know what you're thinking: How many times can this guy confess his love for JR Smith?

At least one more. That's how many times.

JR Smith is playing out of his mind during these playoffs. I've talked already about how good of a shooter he is and how often he makes killer shots here and here, but I also want to give a quick update. 

True Shooting Percentage is a somewhat complicated statistic that takes all types of shots into account and makes one shooting percentage out of them. It factors in how 3s are tougher than dunks, and free throws are relatively easy. The composite should be a little higher than a normal shooting percentage, but the idea is to show how well someone is shooting across all areas. I realize that 5 games is a small sample size, but JR's True Shooting Percentage in these playoffs is currently higher than Steph Curry's (and everyone else in the NBA) was over the past season. He's at a 67.7 TS%. That's even more impressive considering he is weirdly bad at shooting free throws. 

Try another stat: Effective FG% is similar to TS% but I believe it ignores free throws. Over the past 4 years Deandre Jordan has dominated the NBA in this category because he dunks about 80% of the time that he's taking a shot. Steph Curry was 2nd last year at 63% and 2nd the year before at 60%. Playoff JR Smith has an EFG% of 69% right now. He is unstoppable on catch-and-shoots, and overall he's hit more than 52% of his deep balls.

But this isn't just another example of me gushing about JR Smith's shooting, although I'd be happy to talk about that more. He's drawing more positive feedback about his defense now, too. He was one of the primary defenders on Kyle Korver, one of the best shooters in NBA history. Korver needs a sliver of space to get off a shot and when he gets that shot, he makes it more often than almost anyone else, ever. Korver took 1 field goal in about 36 minutes on the floor. Basically, Korver is the guy who regularly does what JR does here.

 

Sliver of space, extremely tough shot. Nails it. Curiously, JR was moving about as quick as you'd expect Korver to move as he went around screens.

OK. Enough. It's not just JR that I want to talk about. Atlanta is a good team. I didn't like that the Cavs let them back into the game, but it wasn't a big surprise. The Hawks go on runs as they have about 6 guys who are average-to-good scorers. They're also one of the better defensive teams in the league. To me, the issue wasn't that the Cavs played bad defense to let them back in, it was the offense taking their foot off the pedal.

The Cavs simply started turning the ball over more in the second half. Sloppy turnovers - LBJ would jump to throw a pass and get stuck in mid-air. Delly would try to slip a throw between three defenders. Bad ideas. I can't get too mad because Cleveland only had 8 TOs in the game, but I believe 7 came in the 2nd half.

Fortunately, the Cavs defense actually seemed to play rather well. Some of it was dumb luck, as Horford/Millsap aren't going to miss as many shots as they missed in game 1, but Schroder also isn't going to make 5 out of his first 7 threes, so things have a way of balancing out. What impressed me was Channing Frye getting in a blocked shot and contesting guys inside in his sparse minutes. More than that, the bumper crop of steals by the Cavaliers were less about lazy Hawks passes and more about active hands. It's just a shock that none were by the living embodiment of active hangs, Iman Shumpert.

The Cavs ended with 7 blocks and 9 steals - both pretty gaudy numbers for them. While LeBron James and Kyrie Irving will get the highlight-time from their steals and blocks, I was a big fan of Dahntay Jones coming in and getting a late steal and breakaway layup. 

Ah, what the hell. Here's Kyrie.

Last few things:

- I don't think the Cavs are going to sweep this series, but I do think they're going to win with some comfort. I think they'll lose 1 in Atlanta and take the series in 5.

- I will be very upset if Kevin Love continues to go 1-10 in first halves, even if he made some big shots down the stretch. He sure isn't playing great defense, so I have no issues with seeing Frye get more minutes when Kevin is ineffective on the block, which has been very often.

- Love is shooting 40% inside 3 feet in this series and is shooting 27% from between 3 and 10 feet out, according to basketball-reference.com. That is unimaginably bad.

- To compare, Kyrie Irving is shooting 52% inside of 3 feet.

- We didn't even talk about LeBron James in this article, who was credited by one source as "not having a great game" last night despite his 25 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, and 5 steals. He shot over 50% too. He is a victim of his own superhuman success.

 That's all for this game. I'll meet you back here at the end of the week to talk a little more. Go Cavs.

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