Cleveland Cavaliers to focus on defensive improvements

The Cleveland Cavaliers are focused on making defensive improvements heading into Game 3 of the opening round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
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CLEVELAND -- During the Cleveland Cavaliers’ struggles throughout the month of March and through the final two weeks of the regular season, they played inconsistent basketball on the defensive end of the floor, which resulted in them playing their way out of the top seed in the Eastern Conference heading into the NBA Playoffs.

But going against the Indiana Pacers in a best-of-seven first-round series, the Cavaliers know what must be done if they hope to advance deep into the postseason for a third straight year.

“We’ve just got to play,” Cavaliers small forward LeBron James said. “We’ve got to play hard. We’ve got to understand that every possession in the postseason matters. One possession could lose you a game, and ultimately, could lose you a series.

“If you want to win…If you want to win, our coaching staff will give us a gameplan, let’s execute it. Then, our coaching staff will make the necessary judgments if it’s needed and put us in position to win. It’s up to us to go out and execute it.”

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Throughout the stretch run of the regular season, Love felt the Cavaliers were “showing flashes that we’re capable,” and it is that kind of productivity that he and his teammates are focused on displaying throughout the remainder of the playoffs.

“I mentioned being locked in,” Love said. “If we do that, we’re a very tough team to beat, so that will give us confidence.

“A lot of the time, playoff basketball is played in the half-court, but either way, whether we’re out in transition or in the half court, we play with pace. We’ve got to be better, but that all starts on the defensive end. That’s where it starts for us.”

The Cavaliers are confident that having a best-of-seven series against a single opponent will give the players opportunities to set “the right coverages” in an effort to get “everybody on the same page.”

“It’s tough,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “The league has changed. Defenses have changed. The rules have changed, so to guard a guy one-on-one is tough. We’ve got to be more team-oriented.

“We don’t have the best one-on-one defenders, so we’ve got to be more team-oriented, know what we’re trying to take away. That’s why the playoffs are good for us. We know exactly what we want to take away. We know exactly what we want to do every, single night.”