CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cavaliers haven’t talked enough on defense all season. And on Saturday night, their lack of communication was a factor in a third straight loss.
The Cavs lost 121-106 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the hottest teams in the NBA. The Thunder extended their win streak to five games with the win.
Cleveland routinely was susceptible to players such as Dennis Schroder and Danilo Gallinari scoring easy buckets. Schroder scored a team-high 22 points, and he shot 9-of-15 from the field. Gallinari scored 19 points and got open for 3-pointers, shooting 5-of-11 from deep.
“There was that one span there that we had a group (that) didn’t talk,” Cavs coach John Beilein said. “It’s one of our biggest issues, right? Forget about people just being not connected sometimes. It’s we have a quiet team, and we assume too much that somebody has the ball and somebody has the next man.”
Guard Collin Sexton echoed Beilein’s sentiments of how the Cavs need to talk more on defense. Sexton, who had a team-high 30 points, said Schroder and Gallinari did well finding their spots against the Cavs’ defense.
“Gallinari, he’s a shooter, so we’ve got to make sure we’re up against him,” Sexton said. “And then Schroder, he can do it all. He can get to that basket really good. We just gotta make sure the weak side is helping whenever he gets past one defender.”
Schroder comes off the bench, yet he is the Thunder’s second-leading scorer. He gave the Cavs headaches mostly in the second quarter, when he scored 10 points and shot 4-of-6 from the field.
The Cavs’ communication problems are present throughout each level of their defense. They don’t defend the 3-point line well, and they also don’t defend well in the midrange area or down low.
According to NBA.com stats, the Cavs rank 28th in opponent 3-point field goal percentage and 29th in opponent field goal percentage.
“Talking, that’s it,” Sexton said of what’s needed to improve the team’s communication. “That’s the biggest thing. You just got to talk. Make sure you want to communicate to your teammates, so that everybody don’t get put in a bad situation.”
When it comes to quality communication, the Cavs saw one of the league’s best communicators up close. Thunder guard Chris Paul, one of the NBA’s best floor generals, regularly talks with his teammates on the floor, making sure people know where to be.
“The biggest thing with Chris Paul, and I mentioned it to Darius (Garland) during the game – listen to how much Chris Paul talks in the game,” Beilein said. “To his teammates, to everybody, to the coach. He’s a great communicator.”
As the Cavs lead guard, Garland has to make sure his teammates are in position to contest shots and help where needed.
Still, Garland is young – he turns 20 on Jan. 26. Learning to communicate as much as possible with his teammates is just a part of his development.
“I’m the point guard,” Garland said. “I’m the leader on the floor, so it really starts with me. I mean I’m just trying to grow. I’m kind of quiet, so just talking on the floor. Just have to be (of) the mindset, and I just have to do it.”