Podcap: Nuggets 126, Cavs 113 (or, The Defense Rests)

The Cavs had their whole squad (minus the L8Show) back together against the Denver Nuggets last night, and were able to reassemble the starting lineup that won the Championship last year for the first time in months. Unfortunately, just because they were together again, doesn’t mean they were all necessarily on the same page… especially defensively. Maybe it was the four days they spent at sea level in L.A., taking care of business between two weekend games, before flying a mile high to the Pepsi Center. Or, maybe it was the rust of trying to re-integrate key pieces like Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver (who returned after missing seven games) back into the rotation. Or maybe they just gave their defensive selves a night off. Whatever it was, the Nuggets, led by their Point Center Nikola Jokic, almost ran the Cavs off the court, racking up 73 points in the first half on 58% shooting, and putting the wine & gold in a hole as deep as 20 points in the early going. Kyrie did what he could to shoot them back into it (33 points), but he, LeBron (who was a wretched -30 on the night) and the rest of the gang just couldn’t slow down the Nuggets.

On this edition, Nate and EvilGenius break down the Rocky Mountain Low the Cavs experienced, discuss whether or not the Cavs can stay ahead of the Boston Celtics (just one game back now) with a still tough road ahead, if they can flip the defensive switch for the post-season, what their plans for rest might be with three more back to backs to come, what’s happening with Larry Sanders down in Canton, and much, much more. We even revisit a bit of the Oscars drama from a couple of weeks ago.

You can find us above, or on iTunes.

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Joe
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Joe
1 year 4 months ago

All these talks about turning it up for the playoff, it’s turning more into a habit instead and may be too late to get it fixed.

Tim
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Tim
1 year 4 months ago

Well, effort is one thing, age and athleticism are another. Channing Frye was the subject of many Lebron dagger looks last night for slow help defense and getting owned, but he isn’t and never was on the team as a defense type big. He is slow, as is Love. Love is tough and has looked much better this year defensively, but he’s terrible at closeouts on shooters. Basically the perimeter defense can’t stop dribble penetration, and the help is slow and unathletic. Those aren’t effort issues necessarily. They need perfect focus and execution to hide their flaws and right now that isn’t happening.

Cols714
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Cols714
1 year 4 months ago

I don’t see any teams in the east that are scary.

John B
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John B
1 year 4 months ago
According to the McMenamin article on last nights game, there seems to be two views of the defensive issues on this team. Lebron and Lue say they are frustrated defensively, that they have to get better now, and that certain individuals lack toughness. I find this to be a bit ironic with regards to LBJ’s defensive performance last night, but he generally is one of our better defenders even during the regular season and it is shown in his plus minus. Also at least he recognizes the problem and the urgency of fixing it soon. The other mentality seems to be illustrated by Kyrie which is the cols line: injuries, regular season, everything is kosher, etc. Very few teams have won the ship finishing outside the top half of the league in defensive efficiency (Something like 2 or 3 teams). In my opinion, now is the time they should be ramping up. The danger of waiting is that some teams like the 2002-2003 lakers were never able to lock in after coasting through the entire regular season because it was assumed they were so much better than the rest of the league. Who is right LBJ and Lue or Kyrie?… Read more »
Cols714
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Cols714
1 year 4 months ago

The over/under on losses in the east playoff is what? 2.5??

John B
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John B
1 year 4 months ago

Right now we would be playing the heat, then likely the raptors, then Boston or Washington. I would bet over with that group based off the fact it might take a few rounds for them to lock in completely if they coast through the rest of the regular season.

Cols714
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Cols714
1 year 4 months ago

Cavs are 24-4 in the ECP the last two years.

John B
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John B
1 year 4 months ago

A fair number of different pieces this year and it is a different season. They haven’t been the same defensively. Could they be in the playoffs? Maybe, hopefully. They are way farther away from that defensive capability they showed in the regular season last year than this year. That might not matter, or it might. It has for some defending champions in the past.

Cols714
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Cols714
1 year 4 months ago

The argument I could see is that they are champs and it’s hard to find the motivation the year after you win it all. But, and this can’t be stressed enough, it’s a LEBRON JAMES team. That’s why I have confidence. All LBJ does is get his team ready and focused in the playoffs.

John B
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John B
1 year 4 months ago

I think that is what is trying to do now with his comments last night. He wants to lock in sooner rather than later and so does Lue. Some like Kyrie, based off his comments from last night do not seem to be as concerned as LBJ and Lue though.

Cols714
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Cols714
1 year 4 months ago

Geez people, get a grip.
From Jason Lloyd:

“For all the problems the Cavs have displayed defensively – and there have been plenty – it’s worth noting they continue to play vanilla schemes. They aren’t blitzing ball handlers in pick-and-rolls, they aren’t doubling very often and they haven’t asked James to do much defensively against some of the league’s top players. They’re clearly saving all that for the postseason – Lue told me as much following a loss at Boston earlier in the month.”

But you all are right. Lue should be fired. This team is never making it to the Finals. Bring back the regular season champs of LeBron James 1.0!!!!!!!!!

GreekCavsFan
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GreekCavsFan
1 year 4 months ago

I personally am against coaching changes, unless there is a compelling case for said change, which is why I hated the Blatt firing. You can’t question the result since we won the chip, but rewarding sulking by the players over the coach is a wrong process in my opinion. The fact that Lue is doing a bad job THIS SEASON is undeniable when he is likely to lose the first seed to a mediocre Boston team hit by the injury bug at least as much as the Cavs.
All he counts on is Lebron going zerodark23 in the playoffs and elevating the whole team. Great coaching /s.

Cols714
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Cols714
1 year 4 months ago

The players were right though. Blatt was not well liked especially after refusing the game ball (this isn’t my first win…who says crap like this) and nearly blowing the chicago series with a time out and then not wanting James to hit the three to win the game.

I do not understand how firing Blatt is still a thing around here. It was a tremendous move by Griffin.

I doubt we lose the #1 seed.

GreekCavsFan
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GreekCavsFan
1 year 4 months ago

You are not into subtle points Cols.
We keep the #1 seed only if we start playing playoff basketball yesterday.

Nate Smith
Admin
1 year 4 months ago

Much of the podcast is a discussion of whether “Saving all that for the postseason” is a good strategy. It’s a fair question, not only when it comes to the ability of the Cavs’ to win it all, but also when it comes to the business of the NBA. If we’re now treating the regular season as just extended preseason, is that a product people are going to devote their eyeballs and their dollars to?

Cols714
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Cols714
1 year 4 months ago

I think using the regular season for practice is only good when you have a team that you know has the ability to do this. The last two years have proven that these Cavs can indeed pull this off. But you have to take it on a case by case basis.

As for the rest of the question? I don’t know the answer. I’m slowly coming around to the conclusion that less games is actually the answer (even though I hate this so much because I like watching NBA). But this is a really hard sell to the players and owners and coaches.

Mostly my snark was reserved for the comments to your podcap that want Lue fired and hate this team even though it’s in first place and won a championship last year. Ridiculous.

Nate Smith
Admin
1 year 4 months ago

Who wants Lue fired? Not I. We don’t hate this team, but boy, it sure isn’t fun to watch them sometimes. Stop putting words in my mouth.

Nate Smith
Admin
1 year 4 months ago

Why should Lue be fired? He’s LeBron’s top assistant.

JB225
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JB225
1 year 4 months ago

Hehehe best comment lol

MikeO
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MikeO
1 year 4 months ago

I’m not one who thinks Lue should be fired (nor am I one who thinks he’s a great coach), but IIRC, you were one who was calling for Blatt to be fired last year, when he had a better record than Lue had this year, and after he had gotten Lebron and Delly and some bench guys to game 6 against The Greatest Team Of All Time. Nice exhibition of panic by yourself, I must say.

Raoul
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Raoul
1 year 4 months ago

I don’t recall anyone calling for Blatt to be fired, but when he was, it was obviously the right move.

Cols714
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Cols714
1 year 4 months ago

I never called for him to be fired. But I said at the time that it was the right move since he was way too cocky and arrogant for NBA players. And it was proven to be the correct move. I do not understand what you are getting at.

MikeO
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MikeO
1 year 4 months ago

You’re calling out those who think Lue should be fired when you were fine with Blatt being fired when his team was performing better than Lue’s. Can’t have both.

Cols714
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Cols714
1 year 4 months ago

Yes you can. Firing Blatt = Great move that got us Ty Lue who WON A CHAMPIONSHIP.
Firing Lue for the sin of being in first place while dealing with tons of injuries and new guys? Seems rather myopic to me.

Tim
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Tim
1 year 4 months ago

We all hope the malaise we are seeing is a product of championship hangover, not a terribly flawed defense. Time will tell, need to see some fight and bounce back in the last few games to fix these issues before they become habits.

worldbfree
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worldbfree
1 year 4 months ago
Clearly this team and its management believe that the playoffs are the only thing that matter. Maybe so, but it makes the regular season such a drag to watch when your team basically uses it as a test lab/practice court and almost never tries to drive in anything higher than 3rd gear. In defense of the Cavs’ tactics… 1) It’s a fair argument that the best use of these last dozen games is to experiment with different lineups to assess all the different options we have in our arsenal — particularly because it’s so deep and because there are so many new pieces. 2) It’s also reasonable to argue that the past two postseasons have validated this “save it for the playoffs” strategy because we have the personnel to make it work, including the most dominant postseason player in basketball history. 3) Playing the same team four to seven times in a row makes the playoffs an entirely different beast than the regular season, where every team rises to the occasion to give the Cavs its best shot. Could a team like the Nuggets bring it at this level four out of seven games? No. Could the Celtics? With home-court?… Read more »
worldbfree
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worldbfree
1 year 4 months ago

And yet… it’s just such a bummer to watch.

Every time I see Lebron just watch a player grab a rebound he could fight for or stand there as his man blows by him in the paint, I start getting jealous of fans of teams like the Sixers, Bucks, Heat, etc. who can be proud of their teams’ fight. My friend got us courtside tix to the Nets-Celtics game last Friday. It was pretty amazing to be right next to the Nets’ bench and see and hear an undertalented team show some pride and fight from 5 feet away. You’d expect a 14-win team to be a bunch of sulking millionaires. These guys wanted to win. It mattered to them. They cared. They were fun to cheer for — and nearly pulled it off, losing by three with a chance to tie at the buzzer.

Then again, they’re a 14-win team. The worst in the league. So what the hell do I know?

Raoul
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Raoul
1 year 4 months ago

It would be great if LeBron, Kyle, etc., had the energy of a 20 year old. Maybe they are taking it easy. Hard to say. But LeBron has played more minutes than almost anyone in NBA history, and a lot of it at an extremely high level, so it is pretty hard to say he is goofing off.

If everyone can turn it up for the playoffs, this discussion will be long forgotten. If they can’t or don’t, then we will have a major problem.

Cols714
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Cols714
1 year 4 months ago

I will not forget this discussion.

Kevin
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Kevin
1 year 4 months ago

LOL it’s hilarious. If the team is only going to fight in the playoffs, and you want to see fight, then only tune in then? I don’t see much else fans can do to create change than by boycotting the regular season — which is happening. Ratings are down.

MikeO
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MikeO
1 year 4 months ago

Just another reason the season should be much shorter, but it won’t happen despite all the reasons it should, because Money is bigger than everything else.

Thomas Pestak
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Thomas Pestak
1 year 4 months ago

Enjoyed the pod fellas

JMay
Member
1 year 4 months ago

We miss ya on the pods Tom!

Jason
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Jason
1 year 4 months ago

James is not the MVP. Our defense is awful. There is zero consequences for players who don’t play D. The Celtics will get the #1 seed. Right now, we lose to Miami or Milwaukee the way we are playing. The only teams I’d feel good going against are Indiana & Atlanta. Perhaps we flip the switch. Perhaps we don’t. It is amazing on a night where we play no D Liggins & Derrick just sit the whole time.

MikeO
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MikeO
1 year 4 months ago

I do think a chunk of the inept defense is some guys who haven’t played together due to injuries. The communication and recognition is godawful. Another part of it is no effort. But even taking these things into account, this is not a good defensive team, and beating even the better Eastern teams is going to require big offensive performances.

Mike Podracky
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Mike Podracky
1 year 4 months ago

Derrick ran the floor so well and provided great energy. Liggins sure as heck can’t be any worse on defense than anyone who played last night, and most games he played he made several defensive contributions. This is when I really don’t understand what Lue is doing on rotations. When we were short handed in Round 1 vs the Dubs, Blatt/Lue didn’t have much choice who to play given the short bench. In Round Two with the Dubs, he kept to a 7 1/2 man rotation. Seems like the more players at Lue’s disposal the more he struggles with decision making.

Based on the eye test alone, Liggins and Derrick should have gotten minutes last night. The fact that we still can’t cover a basic pick/roll is alarming and embarrassing. Deron Williams time at the point has taken the ball out of LeBron’s hands more, and so far that hasn’t been a good thing despite his points last night. When Frye, Korver and Deron are on the floor our defense has been a mess. But then it’s been a mess with virtually any combination on the floor.

JMay
Member
1 year 4 months ago

You know, another thing on the argument about resting players that comes to mind. If you say you are resting players, fine, okay, I get it and mostly agree with it. Unfortunately in the case of the Cavs, even when we aren’t resting players, the on-court product is just crummy on half of the nights. If you can’t manage to put out a good performance when you AREN’T resting, to me that kind of undercuts your argument.

JMay
Member
1 year 4 months ago

The good news is that at least we didn’t give up 79 in a half to the Nuggets like the Warriors did…

Joe
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Joe
1 year 4 months ago

What’s up with every back to back need to be a loss. I mean now it is turning into a mandatory. WTF!

JMay
Member
1 year 4 months ago

My theory is that LeBron is trying to make things as hard as possible in the regular season to motivate the Cavs in the playoffs. I don’t know. Grasping at straws :(

JB225
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JB225
1 year 4 months ago

I would be surprised if Coach Lue is still the coach of this team next season. You look a the Heat roster with the bunch of scrubs they have and they play their behinds off night in and night out and are about to make the playoffs and at the other hand the Cavs are just trying to outscore every opponent. Defense wins championships and if the Cavs can’t find a way to play championship caliber defense all they are going to do is get swept in the finals.

Kevin
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Kevin
1 year 4 months ago

Lue will not be the coach if the Cavs do not win the chip. I’d even go as far to say Griffin’s contract will not be extended.

Alex
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Alex
1 year 4 months ago

I don’t think Lue is a very good coach but the only way I see him getting fired is if the Cavs make a 1st or 2nd round upset exit in the East, not a failure to repeat. Griff is here to stay, don’t know where you’re getting that from.

Joe
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Joe
1 year 4 months ago

I wouldn’t be surprised if Lue still the coach but I’m hoping he wouldn’t. When did it occur that Lue is a good coach though?

Kevin
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Kevin
1 year 4 months ago

JR Smith has played like trash all season. I wish the Cavs management would stop screwing around during the off season and sign guys instead of dragging it out. JR had no momentum into the season and I doubt he will find his touch for the playoffs.

Raoul
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Raoul
1 year 4 months ago

Earth to Kevin: There is a salary cap you have to work around. You can’t just give everyone as much money as their agents want. Every agent wants the max, because they get a percent.

warriorsfan
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warriorsfan
1 year 4 months ago

wow Cavs and Celts tied in win column. Who would have thought.

Still, Cavs are run away favorites to come out of east, east is that bad especially in playoffs.

JB225
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JB225
1 year 4 months ago

The Cavs will make it to the finals again but with the way they are defending they will be lucky if they don’t get swept.

warriorsfan
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warriorsfan
1 year 4 months ago

Who ever comes to finals, have to win against atleast two of Warriors, spurs, Rockets, Memphis. They will be tired by the time they see Cavs in finals. Cavs if they stay healthy can win atleast 2 games.

GreekCavsFan
Guest
GreekCavsFan
1 year 4 months ago

Also, to get the 1 seed, we now HAVE to beat the Celtics in our remaining matchup and even then it is no sure thing. The Celtics have a super easy schedule the rest of the way and we have many difficult games. Of course, if we play D like we have so far, none of this matters.

MikeO
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MikeO
1 year 4 months ago

I think the 1 seed is bye-bye…as you say, Cavs schedule is much more difficult than the Celtics, and with the Cavs every back to back will be a loss, and maybe every road game.

The Cavs can certainly play harder than they have been, but hard to imagine them ‘turning it on’ to the point where they are a top half of the league defensive team. They just have too few decent defenders…they weren’t even a good defensive team in the playoffs last year. I can even see them getting in a dogfight with whoever they play in the first round in the playoffs. If it’s Miami, I can see Dragic scoring 40 a game.

warriorsfan
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warriorsfan
1 year 4 months ago

I don’t know if Cavs need to turn it on to make finals.

warriorsfan
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warriorsfan
1 year 4 months ago

Teams in the west who are not even contenders like Memphis, Jazz and Denver could have given Cavs run for their money in playoffs. Celtics, Raptors or any other team in east will be lucky to win 2 games against Cavs. Cavs are just simply better than any team in the east and can win with much superior offense.

Veal Chop
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Veal Chop
1 year 4 months ago

Totally agree. The Cavs would be a 5th or 6th seed if they were in the west and had to play western teams all the time.

GreekCavsFan
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GreekCavsFan
1 year 4 months ago

I just don’t see how this team can turn it up enough to even make it to the finals, let alone win it. Frankly, it would be bad for basketball, if you don’t get punished for not trying hard enough for the whole regular season. I now hope we play Miami in the first round, so that they could be a wake up call when they are up 2-1 or something.
The playoffs are 10 days away and the Cavs are playing with the intensity of preseason, especially Lebron.
As for Lue, Mike Brown would be ashamed to win less than 60 games with that amount of talent.

Cjef
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Cjef
1 year 4 months ago

I think it’s been injury that has been the biggest disruption. They were killing it until Love got food poisoning then hurt his knee. Another few weeks were spent integrating Korver. 82 games is a lot.

Alex
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Alex
1 year 4 months ago

Playoffs are not 10 days away.

Joe
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Joe
1 year 4 months ago

After getting swept in this year Finals, I hope the Cavs would get someone with competence to coach the team. With the deepest roster, Lue can’t even put together a good line up. I don’t think you’ll get another chance to be a HC again.

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