Halloween isn’t until next week… but the Cleveland Cavaliers seem to already be suffering from a different brand of terror. No, triskaphobia isn’t the fear of watching Tristan Thompson’s futile offensive stylings (that would be triskaidekaphobia — fear of the number 13). It’s the fear of three… or in this case, threes.
Bad things have come in threes so far this season. The Cavs were 0-3 before taking on the Brooklyn Nets. After losing this one, it’s the longest they’ve gone winless to start a season since ’03. Things all fell apart in quarter number 3… primarily because that’s when the Nets went berserk from three. Meanwhile, the Cavs have themselves been awful from three (they made just 3 of 18 tonight), so much so that they seem afraid to take threes even when they’re of the wide open variety.
In the end, this game was over after three… and just so I’m not up til 3 recapping this, I’m going to break this down into threes as much as possible.
3 Non-Scary Quarters
For the first two quarters of the contest and the final quarter, the Cavs actually played with some defensive energy and effort. They weren’t hitting shots early (26% in the first quarter), but neither were the Nets (37%). Too often, the Cavs’ shooters got scared off of the three point line, opting instead for all too familiar pullup mid-range twos. However, they were mostly doing the same to the Brooklyn long bombers. Some of this could be ascribed to cold shooting, but also, Ty Lue had the Cavs switching just 1-4 instead of switching everything. In addition, guys were closing out with considerable more gusto than they showed against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.
Unfortunately, quarter 3 was their downfall… as it has been in so many recent seasons. The Cavs came out flat in the third, lacking the hustle they showed in holding the Nets to a draw at 45 through the first half of play. For the first seven minutes of the quarter, all Brooklyn took were threes or shots within three feet of the basket. They made five of each, going on a 23-5 run to effectively put the game away. The Cavs allowed the Nets to shoot 72% for the quarter and 60% from three (6-10). Notorious Cav killer, Jared Dudley (yeah… he’s still in the League), drained three of his four threes in the terrible stretch, and former Cav, Joe Harris, also chipped in three of his six buckets.
— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) October 25, 2018
In the final frame, the Cavs managed to keep the game from being a complete blowout, yet the damage was done already. They seemed content to trade long twos with Brooklyn, rather than hunt for potential threes to try and close the gap. The margin fluctuated between 18-22 points right up until Collin Sexton hit a garbage time bucket to close the scoring, and trim it to a 16 point loss.
3 x 14
There were three Cavs who all led the team in scoring on the night. Kevin Love, Collin Sexton and Jordan Clarkson each overcame their triskaidekaphobia by adding one extra point to their totals. Yet, they all got there in very different ways. Love was fairly efficient, knocking down four of his nine attempts, including 2-5 from three. He also got to the line for 4-5, and added 11 boards and two assists to his tally. However, nine shots weren’t nearly enough looks for Kev, as five other Cavs had more attempts.
Sexton had a decent bounce back game following his forgettable night against the Hawks. The Young Bull converted 6-10 shots, but did most of his damage on drives and layups. He only attempted a single three, seemingly just as uncomfortable as his fellow Cavs from long range. He did have three rebounds though.
Clarkson had a miserable night shooting from the field (4-14, 0-4 from three), but got to the line six times and was perfect from there. He was part of the group that helped keep things even in the first half, though he did turn the ball over four times. Chalk him up for three assists… even though I couldn’t remember any of them if I tried.
3’s A Crowd (Apparently)
Rough night for the Cavalier big men, as Tristan Thompson and Larry Nance, Jr. combined to make just three shots out of 17. Okay, that’s a little unfair to LNJ, since he was just 2-7. Tristan had one of his ugliest shooting nights in recent memory with a 1-10 stinkfest. One of his scoop shots looked worse than a knuckleball thrown by Three Finger Mordecai Brown. TT can certainly still pull down oodles of rebounds (especially the offensive ones when the Cavs shoot this poorly), and had 11 on the night. Yet, does that really off-set the disadvantage the Cavs have offensively when he’s on the floor?
Nance wasn’t a whole lot better, as Jared Allen and the rest of the Nets had no reason to fear much offensively from either Cavs center. Larry did chip in six boards, and equalled Tristan’s four dimes to help round out his stat sheet somewhat.
Now that Nance is back, however, it appears there’s no room in Ty Lue’s rotation for the third big… Ante Zizic. You know, the big dude who is shooting 10-13 on the year… who actually has enough of an offensive arsenal to make opponents even slightly concerned. You can just ride the pine with your 20 PER, Ante. Have fun picking up garbage. Sigh.
3 Point Specialists?
There was some brouhaha this past weekend about certain vets being told they would probably be getting their minutes cut for younger players. Two of the main vets in question were JR Smith and Kyle Korver. The other thing these two have in common, is that they are probably (outside of Kevin Love) the two best three point sharpshooters on the team. Both got to play a part against the Nets, and both seemed at least somewhat effective from a hustle and ball-movement standpoint in the first half. However, between them they took just a single three in their combined 37 minutes on the floor. Which begs the question… why play three point specialists if you’re not going to run sets to get them three point shots? The drive and kick game in Cleveland has become an endangered species.
Credit to Korver for dishing three dimes. And, credit to JR who turned in the shot of the game (and maybe of the season thus far)…
— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) October 25, 2018
3 Rough Nights
The other three starters had mostly forgettable evenings. It was the second straight poor shooting performance from Cedi Osman (4-12, 0-2 from three for eight points), and this one came without his usual passing game or defensive effort. He had a particularly tough stretch in the third, as he lost track of Joe Harris a couple of times, missed two relatively easy shots and turned the ball over stepping out of bounds. Cedi did snag six boards, but otherwise fell short tonight.
George Hill at least attempted some threes. He only hit one of the four he took from distance, but credit for trying. The rest of his night was unmemorable, as he had zero assists in 24 minutes, and rarely looked to be facilitating anything.
As someone said on the thread (I’m paraphrasing) “Rodney Hood never met a wide open three he couldn’t dribble out of in favor of a long two…” This was in full effect tonight, as Hood shook off several opportunities from three to pump fake and drive his way into oblivion. This Hood belongs on an electric car… because he leaves no trace emissions and has zero footprint.
- The Cavs once again out-rebounded an opponent… this time to a tune of 53-44.
- The Cavs actually showed some improvement in their defensive energy and schemes… well, at least enough to even things up in a low scoring first half.
- The Cavs almost held the Nets under a hundred… bringing their season points against average down to a mere 120.5 ppg (sorry… grasping I know).
- Kevin Love had just nine shots… while Tristan somehow had 10.
- The third quarter woes have returned.
- The Cavs are afraid of the three point line on both ends of the floor.
3 And Out
Credit to Tyronn Lue for at least making some adjustments to his switch everything defense. By not switching his fives, he at least prevented some easy dunks and alley oops, while avoiding putting his big men on islands against guards too often. Yet, the old unnecessary scrambling returned to start the second half, fueling the Nets onslaught from three. On one glaring example, both Larry Nance and Kyle Korver raced to help triple team a shooter on the right wing… only to leave a wide open shooter on the left to swish an uncontested three on a skip pass. For the baby steps forward on defense (third quarter aside), there were several steps back offensively. Cold nights will happen. Teams double teaming Love will happen. But, trading long twos for threes will not cut a deficit. In a three happy League… the Cavaliers can not afford a case of triskaphobia.
Oh yeah… and Mike Longabardi should still be fired.
3vil G3nius out!