Cleveland Cavaliers’ troubles with help defense revealed by Pistons’ 18 3-pointers in Tuesday romp

CLEVELAND, Ohio – John Henson played only his second game as a Cavalier on Tuesday, but he exuded leadership that showed he’s prepared to help in any way possible.

Especially when it comes to helping fix the Cavs’ defensive problems.

The Cavs lost 127-94 to the Detroit Pistons, with their defense struggling to defend the 3-point line. The Pistons shot 51.4% from deep and made 18 3-pointers, the third-highest number an opponent has made against the Cavs. The Mavericks sank 20 in both victories over Cleveland, and the Miami Heat made 19 during the Cavs’ Nov. 20 loss.

Some of the Cavs’ defensive issues stem from a lack of communication. A big man in his eighth season, the 6-11 Henson wants to help.

“I think communication is something that we’re lacking,” Henson said. “Just from me being out there this past game or so, I think I’m going to kind of take on that kind of role of defense and offense communicating with one another. I think that can help us.”

Henson missed the previous 17 games because of a hamstring injury. In his first game back he was on a minutes restriction, finishing with two points, two rebounds and a block in 14 minutes.

As Henson got a chance to shake off rust, he elaborated on what coach John Beilein said has been a problem for the Cavs’ defense: overhelping. Henson said he overhelped on one 3-pointer and that communicating better can improve the Cavs’ defensive woes.

“It’s a communication thing,” Henson said. “The guard has to say, ‘hey I’m back, you back to yours.’ We gotta help the helper.”

Beilein said the Cavs need to see how they can still send help, yet also not give up a 3-pointer.

“One of the biggest problems with our defense right now is we are overhelping. Really overhelping and giving up threes,” Beilein said. “And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’re not standing around sometimes, but then other times we’re just standing around and watching a guy go 1-on-1.”

Some of the Pistons’ 3-pointers came from the Cavs’ scrambling and having too many players pay too much attention to an area or an opponent. At the beginning of the video below, Pistons guard Langston Galloway missed a 3-pointer.

The Pistons regained possession after the miss, and Svi Mykhailiuk passed it to Galloway for a 3-pointer. The Cavs didn’t need Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr. to come out onto Mykhailiuk, especially considering Clarkson had been out of the play after failing to grab the ball.

Detroit had a quick reset to its offense here, but the Cavs had to recover just as quickly defensively and ensure that a player got over to Galloway.

On another play, Clarkson got caught ball watching. At about 18 seconds in the same video, Derrick Rose drove hard to the right side of the floor. The Cavs sealed him off decently well here, flooding the area so he wouldn’t have an easy shot.

But Clarkson paid too close attention to Rose and what he would potentially do – he wasn’t likely to shoot because he had been stopped. Clarkson should have been closer to Galloway because Rose’s only good option was to make a pass to his teammate in the corner. Galloway was one of the Pistons’ best shooters, hitting at a 57.1% clip from deep.

Overhelping sometimes just happens. As Beilein mentioned, it’s good the Cavs aren’t just standing around – they’re active at times on defense.

On some plays against the Pistons, overhelping was just a part of how hard it is to defend a team that features Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin.

Drummond eats up space down low, and Griffin has significantly improved his jumper. Before Tuesday’s game, he came in shooting 23.9% from the 3-point line, but he made a season-high six 3-pointers against the Cavs. He’s shot at least 34% from deep the past two seasons.

On top of that, he’s always been a solid playmaker and capable ball handler. The Pistons boast an underrated big man duo, and they also have players like Rose who can penetrate the lane to score or find shooters. Rose had a team-high nine assists.

Kevin Love mentioned how the Pistons’ inside-out approach is effective. The Pistons are currently ranked first in the league for 3-point percentage (39.9), according to stats.

“The help comes from another guy trying to get their help,” Love said. “Tristan (Thompson) trying to get in front of a guard when he’s playing downhill, but I think that’s why they shoot such a high percentage because they get those open threes. When they get downhill, they put such pressure on your defense and your big man, and they’re spraying out and swing-swing, making the extra pass and knocking down shots for, but it’s a very tough team to gauge that for.”


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