Cavaliers’ Defense Peaking as Championship-Caliber in NBA Finals vs. Warriors

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) tries to control the ball as he is guarded by Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) and guard Iman Shumpert during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) tries to control the ball as he is guarded by Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) and guard Iman Shumpert during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) tries to control the ball as he is guarded by Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson (13) and guard Iman Shumpert during the first half of Game 2 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

 

CLEVELAND (USA Today) — Cleveland’s style has turned into substance.

Four months ago or even seven weeks ago, the idea that the Cavaliers could put a championship defense on the court and slow down one of those Western Conference offensive powers seemed impossible, if not ludicrous.

The Cavaliers were a mediocre defensive team for much of the year, and it was difficult to find an extended stretch of the season when they were a top-10 defensive team in points allowed per 100 possessions, one of the main metrics to determine quality of defense.

The Cavaliers weren’t a top-10 defensive team in that category when they went 32-7 from mid-January to early April. They were a top-10 defensive team in points allowed per 100 possessions during an 18-2 stretch from Jan. 15 to Feb. 26. But that was it. From acquiring Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith in early January trades until the end of the regular season, the Cavs were the 17th-best team in defensive efficiency. Even if you take into account that Shumpert didn’t return from an injury until Jan. 23, the Cavs still weren’t a top-10 defense.

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