Cleveland Cavaliers' 3-point struggles and DeAndre Liggins' on-ball defense claims another: Fedor's five observations


Cleveland Cavaliers' 3-point struggles and DeAndre Liggins' on-ball defense claims another: Fedor's five observations
  1. Cleveland Cavaliers' 3-point struggles and DeAndre Liggins' on-ball defense claims another: Fedor's five observations
    cleveland.com
    Add Wednesday's night's rout to the list, as head coach Tyronn Lue sent in the reserves with around seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Cavaliers don't seem to enjoy playing in Portland. Over the last few years, the Moda Center has been the site of David Blatt's near-firing and LeBron James seemingly vanishing from the offense, prompting Blatt to say he wasn't OK with James' lack of involvement during a…
    All Sports

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Cavaliers don't seem to enjoy playing in Portland.

Over the last few years, the Moda Center has been the site of David Blatt's near-firing and LeBron James seemingly vanishing from the offense, prompting Blatt to say he wasn't OK with James' lack of involvement during a 19-point blowout loss two years ago.

Add Wednesday night's rout to the list, as head coach Tyronn Lue sent in the reserves with around seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

My colleague Joe Vardon documented Cleveland's travel issues, which might've played a part in the lackluster effort. But the Blazers dealt with the same -- perhaps even worse. And the Cavs are a no-excuse team.

Still, after winning the first two games of the longest roadtrip this season, the Cavs have dropped back-to-back contests against playoff foes. They have another coming on Friday in Sacramento. 

Here are five observations:

Shooting woes - Coming off a poor shooting night against Utah, Lue didn't give Kyrie Irving the defensive assignment against Portland All-Star Damian Lillard, which in theory was supposed to keep him from expending too much energy at that end of the floor while having to run through a variety of high pick-and-rolls. 

But Irving's offensive struggles still carried over.  

He scored 11 points, his second-lowest point total this season, on 4-of-16 from the field, including 1-of-2 from 3-point range. He added one assist against three turnovers.

Only Irving knows how much this is playing a part, but his shooting struggles coincide with a return from a hamstring tweak. He hasn't regained his rhythm and isn't finishing at the rim with the same effectiveness. He's also not setting teammates up the way he did at the end of December. 

In the four games since rejoining the lineup, Irving is averaging 22.5 points on 29-of-80 (36.2 percent) from the field, including 10-of-26 (38.4 percent) from beyond the arc to go with 4.0 assists.

He dismissed the chatter after the game, pointing to his 32-point game and another 27-point outing in the stretch. But the efficiency has certainly dipped, even with a few high point totals mixed in there. 

In fairness, Wednesday was a tough scoring night for the entire team.

The Cavaliers were 28-of-82 (34.6 percent) shooting, including 9-of-30 (30 percent) from beyond the arc. It's their worst shooting percentage in more than a year, a streak that traces back to a Christmas Day loss against the Golden State Warriors.

Lack of practice time. Playing without a key piece of the offense. Trying to integrate Kyle Korver. Wanting to keep minutes down. It's all playing a part. 

How about some assist-ance? With the Cavs lacking ball movement once again, a familiar story since the New Year, Portland was able to build a defensive wall and force the Cavs into countless contested shots, especially in the paint.

That might help explain a 46-24 disparity inside. 

Cleveland finished with 14 assists on 28 made shots. To try to put those assist woes in perspective, Blazers swingman Evan Turner finished with 11 helpers himself.

Portland dished out 29 overall on 40 made baskets.

With more isolation offense, the Cavs' deadly 3-point shooting has started to vanish. Of course, not having J.R. Smith in the lineup plays a role in dip from deep as well, especially when his replacement is DeAndre Liggins, who defenses continue to leave open. He went 0-of-4 from beyond the arc against the Blazers.

The Cavs made nine triples on the night. After setting a record for double-figure 3-pointers early in the season, the Cavs have failed to make at least 10 in five of six games in 2017. 

Offense has been Cleveland's backbone, with the 3-pointer being an important weapon.

When scoring at least 100 points or more the Cavs are 26-3. When they fail to reach the century mark, they are 2-7, including back-to-back road losses.

Bench bunch - By the end of the night the Cavs finished with 27 points off the bench, a number aided by Lue's decision to put Kay Felder, Jordan McRae and James…

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