In defense Cavaliers trust, and already there's a difference
NOV 06, 2013 1:57a ET
• It's pretty clear the Cavs are improved defensively, and they've had just more than a month under coach Mike Brown. That's impressive, given how lousy they were in that area last season. As Brown and the players are proudly pointing out, they were near the bottom of the NBA in defense last year, and are already near the top today.
• Reserve guard Jarrett Jack is new to the organization but has taken on a huge leadership role. Following Tuesday's practice, Jack said the Cavs aim to be a "blue-collar basketball team." That much is evident. They've gone from a team that really didn't have an identity to one that grinds and scraps. People know what to expect now. The goal is no longer to be beautiful or make countless highlight reels.
• Instead, the Cavs want to keep games close, keep scores low and give themselves a chance to win at the end. With those things in mind, Brown said the Cavs are further along than he expected. "We still have a lot of room to grow," he cautioned. "(But the players) have done a nice job defensively. They are doing things right within the system. They are trying to communicate. They are trusting the system and each other."
• And yes, Brown and the Cavs believe things are just fine on offense, too. Brown reiterated Tuesday he felt the Cavs played well during the loss at Indiana over the weekend. The Cavs scored 74 points in that game. But Brown liked how the Cavs shared the ball and gave themselves some good looks at the basket. The shots, however, just went awry.
• Kyrie Irving committed nine turnovers in Monday's win. He appears a little out of sorts while averaging 15.3 points per game -- or seven per game less than last year. He also missed a few shots toward the end that could have sealed it. Instead, the Timberwolves had a chance to steal it in the final seconds. Luckily for the Cavs, Kevin Love missed.
• Anyway, Brown isn't concerned (or surprised) about Irving. When a player suddenly really starts to exert himself defensively, as Irving has done, it can take away from his offense. But if we know anything about Brown, we know that's OK by him.
• Here is what Brown said about his star point guard: "Just from watching the tape, he's playing harder defensively now than last year. There's an adjustment period you have to go through. It affects your legs. It affects your mind. … It takes guys out of their comfort zone."
• Irving is also averaging 5.5 rebounds, up from a career average of 3.8 in his first two years.
• Impressively, to a man, the players have bought in to Brown's (sometimes-ugly) approach. They want this to work. They believe their coach and his philosophy can take them somewhere. "To be successful, you have to play hard," Jack said. "What it shows is effort. That's necessary on the defensive end. Having guys come in and work their tails off is gratifying."
• The Cavs are second in the league in points allowed (91.3). They're near the middle of the league in rebounding (13th, 44.0). Things aren’t nearly as appealing on offense. They’re 29th in scoring (87.3 points) and 24th in assists (17.0 a game). But again, it's the first two categories that matter most to their coach.
• C.J. Miles is averaging 14.8 points off the bench. Tristan Thompson is at 13.3. Along with Irving, that’s it as far as double-figure scorers. But three other players are close – Anderson Varejao (9.8 ppg), Dion Waiters (9.5) and Jack (9.3).
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