Cleveland Cavaliers – 92
Utah Jazz – 100
The Cavaliers left Utah on a sour note Tuesday, losing to the Jazz 100-92. Entering the game with the third ranked defense in the NBA by defensive rating, the Jazz bottled up the Cavs’ potent offense, holding them to just 36.5 percent shooting from the floor and 29 percent from three. The Cavs struggled to move the ball on offense or maintain much in the way of defensive pressure for most of the night, accentuated by a 12 point second quarter.
After trailing 41-56 at halftime, LeBron led the Cavaliers back to take the lead with 6:30 remaining in the third quarter. He scored ten straight points included back-to-back threes to give the Cavaliers the lead. But Gordon Hayward was magnificent, and quickly regained the Jazz lead for good. Rudy Gobert’s presence in the lane seemed to frustrate the Cavaliers on offense. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were a combined 9-32 from the floor, and were unable to carry the secondary scoring load behind James. Gordon Hayward didn’t have the same problem, as six total Jazz players scored in double figures, including the slumping Rodney Hood. The Cavaliers rank last in the NBA in points-per-possession allowed in transition, and the Jazz killed them in that department all night. The transition defense was especially noticeable as the Cavaliers had more turnovers than assists for the night, allowing a large number of easy buckets for the Jazz.
The game marked the Cavalier debut of Kyle Korver. As perfect a fit as Korver would appear on paper, it will still require integrating him in the system, as evident with a sloppy effort tonight. The Cavs looked to force the ball to Korver, who also looked to force a few attempts instead of letting the game come to him. There were a few defensive miscues that looks to be miscommunications with the new Cavalier teammate. He finished the night 1-5 from the floor with two points.
It will be interesting to see how Korver’s role grows with the Cavaliers. DeAndre Liggins has filled in for the injured J.R. Smith admirably, but it may make sense for the Cavaliers to use every possible rep getting Korver comfortable with the starting unit before the playoffs. This would leave the limited Liggins exposed playing with the bench unit, but may be the best option for the Cavs when looking specifically at maximizing their talent for the playoffs.
Let’s look behind the box score at Kyle Korver:
94.4 – The percent of Kyle Korver’s shots that were assisted this year. Kyrie and LeBron are going to enjoy some healthy box scores with Korver in the lineup.
51 – Percent of Korver’s three pointers where he was classified as “open” (defender more than four feet away) when he shot 49 percent from three in the 2014-2015 season. That number was down to 43 percent this season. For reference, J.R. Smith shoots 56 percent of his threes while “open.” This could be fun.
2nd – The Cavs are second in the NBA in three-point percentage and just added a career 43 percent shooter.
89 – Percent of Kover’s shots where he had the ball for less than two seconds. While great shooters are important, guys like Kevin Love and Channing Frye need a bit of time to load up for their shot. The Cavaliers have added someone who can shoot quickly and on the move (the Vine above is an example of a common Korver shot: coming around a screen and shooting while his momentum is still carrying him.) J.R. Smith’s ability to take difficult and unconventional shots make him and Korver a different look than defenses are used to seeing and can help the Cavs keep teams off-balance.
The Cavs travel to Portland Wednesday evening to take on the Trail Blazers. While we may not see Kyle Korver look completely comfortable until he has a few practices under his belt, hopefully he can find his rhythm against the Blazers.