It's been topsy-turvy for the Cleveland Cavaliers to start the 2023-24 regular season. In wins, there have been moments Cleveland showed signs of being a dominant, two-way team that was ready to contend for an NBA championship. Look no further than how the Cavs performed at home and on the road against the Golden State Warriors this year or in a recent road win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
But soon after those wins, it felt like Cleveland would run into a wall and kill any positive momentum previously built. Sure, the various injuries the Cavs have been dealing with sometimes made it feel similar to Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes. But there were instances in some losses where Cleveland was simply more talented than its opponent. Regardless of the talent, the Cavs still lost and, in turn, looked out of sorts on offense.
Perhaps it was how opponents were defending Cleveland some nights. Perhaps it was the Cavs relying too much on their new offensive system. Whatever it was, a fundamental issue surfaced: Cleveland wasn't adapting its offensive flow to available personnel. More importantly, the available personnel wasn't adapting their on-court effort to what opponents gave them, leading to a recipe for failure.
Cavs' pressure proves too much for Pistons on both ends
After their solid road win against the Trail Blazers, the Cavs showed signs of life against a hapless Detroit Pistons squad on Friday in a 108-100 win. Granted, it took them a bit to find their footing against Detroit, but once Craig Porter Jr. checked in for Cleveland, there was a tonal shift to how the Cavs flowed on offense. Again, much of it had to do with who was on the floor, but behind a charge from Porter, Cleveland started applying consistent pressure at the basket.
Overall, 74.1% of the Cavs' field goal attempts came from within the three-point line. More impressively, Cleveland kept Detroit in constant foul trouble with rim pressure, connecting on 71.4% of their 21 free throw attempts. Of course, you'd want to see the Cavs shoot better at the charity stripe since tonight's performance was below average for them. But it's still encouraging to see Cleveland adapt its offensive approach to attack and exploit the weaknesses in an opponent's game plan. It led to an easier offensive flow and, more importantly, to Max Strus breaking the internet for a second game in a row.
— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) November 18, 2023
Sure, the increased rim pressure stopped the Cavs from being overly reliant on firing away from three-point range. But it also made Cleveland even more efficient from the perimeter as well. The Cavs connected on 45.0% of their 20 three-point attempts against the Pistons, while Detroit hit on 26.5% of its 34 attempts pales in comparison. Cleveland let the offensive attack come naturally, with the Pistons failing to stop the Cavs on the interior.
This win over Detroit is an encouraging sign of Cleveland finding its groove after a strong win over Portland. It's even more encouraging considering the Cavs were without Donovan Mitchell, who is dealing with a nagging strained hamstring. Hopefully, Cleveland can keep this momentum rolling against their next opponent, Nikola Jokic and the defending NBA Champion Denver Nuggets. If they do, it would be the first time the Cavs could string three wins together this year (this win over Detroit was Cleveland's first two-game win streak this season). It'll take a whole team effort, especially if Mitchell is still sidelined. But, this win over the Pistons certainly gives plenty of reason for optimism.