CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cavaliers’ defense has been filled with holes all season, but what’s coincided with that is their tendency to turn the ball over.
Not taking care of the ball has only added to the Cavs’ defensive woes, which have come to a head in the past few games. The Cavs committed 21 turnovers Saturday in their 118-106 loss to the Chicago Bulls. It was the seventh time this season the Cavs have committed 20 or more turnovers.
The Bulls scored 27 points off the Cavs’ turnovers; that’s the 23rd time this season the Cavs have given up 20 or more points off turnovers. According to NBA.com stats, the Cavs give up the most points off turnovers in the league (20.1).
“We turned the ball over, and they’re obviously very good (at that),” Cavs coach John Beilein said. “They lead the league in turning people over, and they did that to us again today. It just leads to transition points or layups.”
The Cavs lost to the Bulls last Saturday as well, and they committed 27 turnovers then, their second-highest total of the season.
It’s a recurring problem, and it’s one that has led to losses more times than not. When the Cavs allow 20 or more points off turnovers, they’re 6-17. When they commit 20 or more turnovers, they’re 3-4.
One issue that led to miscues Saturday was the Bulls’ pressure on the perimeter. Chicago blitzed Cavs guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland out top on ball screens; both Sexton and Garland had three turnovers.
“What we did last time was we hit the short roll,” Beilein said. “It’s not something you see hardly at all, and you have to be good at it, and they (the Bulls) practice it every single day. We virtually have never even practiced it one time probably all year, because you’re only going to see it one or two times. So that really bothered us a little bit.”
The Cavs’ Tristan Thompson, who was guarded heavily down low, committed three turnovers, and Kevin Love had four. Cedi Osman was the only player on the roster who didn’t record a turnover.
As the Bulls stymied the Cavs on the perimeter, Cleveland got flustered and was forced into making bad decisions, which led to transition buckets.
While the Cavs’ offense wasn’t terrible – Cleveland shot 50% from the field – their bad decision making did feed into their defensive struggles.
“It has to be the defensive end,” Love said of the Cavs’ main struggles. “It’s not only transition, even though transition buckets they got a lot of tonight, but that also has to do with our decision making on the offensive end.”
The third quarter was filled with elite offense, but only for the Bulls, who outscored the Cavs 40-19. The Cavs committed eight turnovers in the quarter, and the Bulls scored 13 points off turnovers.
On some plays the Cavs made the right decision, even with some pressure from the Bulls. In the video below, Garland encountered two soft blitzes. He made the right decision to pull his dribble back and pass the ball. If he tried to force his way past the arc and into the defenders, he likely would have lost the ball.
As the Cavs continue their season, their ability to make the right reads and dictate their style will be key to their offensive growth.
They’ll have a good opportunity to show some growth in their decision-making when the athletic New Orleans Pelicans come to town Tuesday. The Pelicans are a fast team, ranking sixth in pace. They force teams to commit 14.5 turnovers a game.