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Cleveland Cavaliers’ defense hounds Clippers, win 92-79

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The Cleveland Cavaliers grabbed a 92-79 win over the Clippers, taking them to an early 2-0 record in their five-game road trip. Wednesday night against the Clippers looked like more of the same for Cleveland with some highly-executed and high effort defense. The defense was simply outstanding all evening limiting Los Angeles to 35.6% shooting from the floor and 22% from three. This makes three straight games with the Cavs holding very capable offenses to under 100 points and inefficient shooting. The vision J.B. Bickerstaff and Koby Altmann had for this defense is starting to come to fruition, and boy is it good.

Cleveland’s defense looks legit

Considering how much the Cavaliers defense struggled in their first two games of the season, it is odd they flipped this quickly. Even after struggling mightily giving up 123 and 132 points to the Hornets and Grizzlies, Cleveland’s defensive efficiency is 11th in the NBA. That proves just how dominant the defense has been in their three straight wins over the Hawks, Nuggets and Clippers. In addition, the Wine and Gold’s scoring defense is now up to seventh and their opponent field goal percentage is now 14th in the league. Look at the insane production level of the defense over the last three.

The Cavs managed to put together one of their best defensive performances in years in the Clippers win. To make it more impressive, Cleveland was without their best perimeter defender in Isaac Okoro. Okoro’s injury did not come at an ideal time with most of LA’s offense coming from the perimeter. Yet, it was no problem for the Cavaliers’ defense.

After three great defensive performances, this defense looks like the real deal. The driving force behind this defense is the unusual big man starting lineup. It is very hard to recall any NBA team in recent history starting three near-7-footers. From center to small forward, the Cavs have started Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and Lauri Markkanen. Allen stands at 6-foot-11 while Mobley and Markkanen are 7-footers. The length of this lineup is clearly bothering offenses and it’s working due to Allen and Mobley’s dynamic defensive versatility.

The Big Lineup gave the Clippers fits

On several occasions, perimeter players like Reggie Jackson or Paul George called for isolation. Allen or Mobley found themselves in one-on-one situations with good scorers, yet they kept up. Also, while Markkanen has shot poorly this season, his defense over the last two games has been good. Asking Markkanen to defend small forwards is a lot to ask for, but it is working. George on his 6/20 shooting night was evidently bothered by Markkanen’s length. Markkanen has definitely struggled some on defense, however, he is performing above expectations and doing enough.

With Allen and Mobley defending the paint, the Clippers had few easy looks at the rim. Both frontcourt players contended shots well, but more so Mobley with his two blocks. Mobley challenged everything at the rim, closed well on shooters and held his own on the perimeter.

Prior to the Clippers game, Mobley was already leading the NBA in contested shots with 72. The number surely rose as he should still remain atop the NBA in that statistic. There is a long way to go this season, but if Mobley keeps this up he might need to be considered for All-Defensive already.

At first, this big lineup used by the Cavs did not generate the rebounds as it should. Cleveland’s rebounding has steadily improved over the last three wins. The Cavaliers showed dominance on the boards in their Clippers win, outrebounding LA 57 to 36. The size of Cleveland was absolutely part of that with guards also rebounding strongly, as seen in Collin Sexton‘s seven rebounds. Mentioning Sexton, his posterizing dunk was ludicrous.

The win against the Clippers was another rough offensive night for the Cavaliers. Everything from the ball movement, spacing and pace has been there for the Wine and Gold offense. Shots have not been falling, but that should eventually change. The Cavs’ outstanding defense will be on display again versus the Lakers Friday at 10:30 PM EST.

Featured image courtesy of Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times

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