CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cavaliers have now played the Indiana Pacers, one of the NBA’s best midrange shooting teams, three times.
And on Saturday night, Cleveland showed it must put more pressure on offenses that feature players who can score in the midrange and move without the ball.
The Cavs lost 113-104 to the Pacers, and they are down 2-1 in the season series. T.J. Warren, one of the league’s best midrange scorers, found the creases within the Cavs’ defense and scored a game-high 30 points.
The second half was when the Cavs’ defense started to trail off. The Pacers were more aggressive in their off-ball actions, and their main ball handlers and scorers got to their spots easier for buckets.
“Just be up to touch on the switches,” the Cavs’ Kevin Porter Jr. said. “There was too much of a gap and they split that and got some backdoors. They started reading the switches more. They took advantage of that. So we’ve just gotta be more aggressive on the pindowns. We’ve just gotta recognize that and be more aware.”
The Pacers’ player movement and midrange scoring go hand in hand. It’s no coincidence they’re ranked second in the league for percentage of points scored in the midrange (13.8%) and sixth in assists per game (26.2), per NBA.com stats.
Warren showed his deft shooting touch in the midrange on two key plays in the fourth. With the Cavs down 102-99, Warren had an isolation against Kevin Love and simply pulled up for a jumper.
On another play, the Cavs put more resistance on him. After Domantas Sabonis set a screen, Warren had space to blow by Collin Sexton, but Sexton recovered because of his hustle as well as Andre Drummond containing the area. Warren made the bucket, though, putting the Pacers up 106-101 with 2:55 left.
“I think you know defensively we could have put a little more pressure on them, got into them a little bit more,” Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “Been a little bit higher on our pick-and-rolls to try to stymie that a little bit. But give them credit, they got to their spots and made shots.”
The play below is a good example of how the Cavs need more pressure on ball screens in the middle of the floor. As Malcolm Brogdon dribbled just below the arc, Porter got caught on a screen from Sabonis.
With Porter not in position to defend, the responsibility fell on Drummond to pick up the ball. Drummond contested the shot, but he should have stepped out higher once he saw Brogdon had enough space to shoot.
According to NBA.com stats, the Pacers scored 17.7% of their points Saturday in the midrange. Love said the Cavs forced the Pacers to take some hard shots, but they still knocked them down.
“We felt like we were able to contain a lot of their guys down the stretch, force them into tough shots, but they were hitting a lot of the midrange,” Love said.
The play below is a solid example of how the Cavs took away a midrange jumper in the game’s closing minutes. At around the 44-second mark, Porter stuck with Brogdon and took away any potential jumper. Brogdon got to the hoop, though and scored a bucket.
The Jazz are the Cavs’ next opponent, and while they’re not known for midrange, star guard Donovan Mitchell is a skilled midrange scorer. Mitchell scores 13.2% of his points from the midrange, according to NBA.com stats.
The Cavs and Jazz will tip off at 7 p.m. EST on Monday at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.