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Cavaliers report

Better defense is the answer

Cavs in offensive slump, so Brown seeks stops

By Brian Windhorst
Beacon Journal sportswriter

CLEVELAND - When your team is scoring 20-30 points below its average, making just one of every three shots, and on a two-game losing streak, it would seem like you've got an offensive problem.

No, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, as is his reputation and nature, is more worried about his defense. Since the day he was hired in June, Brown has maintained that defense will be his focus and he is true to his word.

When evaluating the Cavs' 89-85 loss Saturday to the Minnesota Timberwolves -- their first in seven home games and second in a row after an eight-game winning streak -- Brown was inclined to overlook his offense's shortcomings.

The Cavs are shooting just 33 percent in the past two games and after tying their season-low with 76 points in the loss to the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, they were again nearly 20 points below their average on Saturday.

“It was one of those nights,'' Brown said. “I tell our guys there are going to be nights when we don't shoot well. On those nights, we have to get more stops.''

In Brown's philosophy, the antidote to a bad run of offense is to improve defense. So while the offensive is wheezing, Brown intends to do just that. The coach wasn't concerned that the Cavs shot a season-low 32 percent on Saturday, he was upset the Timberwolves shot nearly 50 percent.

The Cavs continue to struggle with stopping penetration, a sore spot last season, and with weakside rotation. Ignore Kevin Garnett's 26 points or Ron Artest's 21 in the loss to the Pacers, those are strong offensive players who will score on anyone. Brown's concern is giving up 17 points to the Pacers' Sarunas Jasikevicius and 18 points to the Timberwolves' Troy Hudson because of poor help defense and rotation.

Brown's target is to give up about 85 points per game and hold the opposition to 42 percent shooting. The Cavs are giving up 95 points per game and are one of the worst teams in the NBA in field-goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot 49 percent.

The Cavs are last in defending the 3-point shot, which was a significant factor in all four of their losses.

Peel back the stats and it comes down to this: the Cavs are determined to win with defense yet they continue to give up too many layups and too many wide-open jump shots.

With three days off before hosting the first-place Los Angeles Clippers before embarking on a three-game West Coast road trip, Brown hopes to tighten things up.

“We never thought this would be easy,'' he said. “It is going to be a slow process. Even when we've won games, we've had the same problems. We're continuing to learn and get better.''
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