Ever since LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the summer of 2014, general manager David Griffin has orchestrated the lineup to put as many shooters around No. 23 as possible—at all five positions. With James’ ability to drive and kick, along with the amount of attention the opposing defense must put on him when he has the ball, James does his best when he has other shooters on the floor, both to spread the floor to open the paint and to pass to for an open shot.
Such has been life in the three seasons since The King has returned, including the championship run in 2016. The Cavs, however, have never shot better from beyond the arc than they have through the first eight games (and two sweeps) so far this postseason. Outside of Kyrie Irving, who hasn’t been able to find his shot in the playoffs and is shooting just 28.1 percent (16-of-57) from long distance, the other seven shooters in the Cavs’ usual nine-man rotation have all shot above 40 percent from three-point range:
- Deron Williams: 60 percent (9-of-15)
- Channing Frye: 55.2 percent (16-of-29)
- Kyle Korver: 48.5 percent (16-of-33)
- LeBron James: 46.8 percent (22-of-47)
- JR Smith: 44.1 percent (15-of-34)
- Kevin Love: 40.5 percent (15-of-37)
- Iman Shumpert: 40 percent (4-of-10)
- As a team: 43.4 percent (115-of-265)
In a sweep over the Toronto Raptors, a series that many thought would be much closer, the Cavaliers outscored the Raptors by a total of 61 points during the four games. As a surprise to many, Toronto made one more shot from the field than Cleveland (159 to 158) while getting dominated by the wine and gold for much of the 192 minutes during the series. So, how did the Cavs blow them out so much then? The difference: The Cavs, who made 61 three-pointers during the four-game sweep, outscored the Raptors by 102 points (!) from long distance. James and company hit 61-of-131 (46.6 percent), while Toronto was just 27-of-90 (30 percent).
Throughout the postseason, the Cavaliers have shot an incredible 53.9 percent on corner threes alone, nearly 10 percentage points better than the second-best team, the Indiana Pacers (44.8). The left corner, the standard residence for guys like Korver and Love, has been even more of a boon for Cleveland as they’re hitting at a 56.5 percent clip. In the event that’s not enough for you, their 70.7 eFG% on catch-and-shoot attempts is far and away the best in the playoffs, with the Milwaukee Bucks being second with 57.6 percent.
In case you missed the regular season, Cleveland shot well from three-point range throughout the year, but not nearly that good. Let’s take a look at how those same players shot from long distance during the regular season:
- Deron Williams: 41.5 percent (22-of-53)
- Channing Frye: 40.9 percent (137-of-335)
- Kyle Korver: 48.5 percent (92-of-200)
- LeBron James: 36.3 percent (124-of-342)
- JR Smith: 35.1 percent (95-of-271)
- Kevin Love: 37.3 percent (145-of-389)
- Iman Shumpert: 36 percent (94-of-261)
- As a team: 38.4 percent (1,067-of-2,779)
The defense, although it has gotten much better at times in the playoffs, has essentially been the Cavs’ biggest weakness so far this season. But if they are shooting like they are from deep and putting up the amount of points that they are (114.5 points per game) in the two sweeps thus far, does it really matter? Add in that Irving will likely find his shot sooner rather than later and Cleveland becomes a very, very scary team to guard, no matter who the opponent is.