Down 0-2 in the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers should consider ditching their current defensive game plan because switching is just not working. There was a time, not too long ago, that switching was very taboo in the NBA, then the Golden State Warriors came along and it is now the preferred defensive system for most teams. The Houston Rockets used this scheme to push the Warriors to seven games but what is a blueprint for one team is not necessarily a blueprint for other teams. The Cavs do not have the personnel that the Rockets had so they should ditch the switch.
Pre-Warriors and death lineups, teams would go to great lengths to avoid switching and mismatches, only willing to switch in late clock situations or emergencies. It has become common practice in the NBA, teams are switching on nearly every off ball and on ball pick whether it is really needed or not. Switching done correctly can be highly effective for teams. The Warriors are the shining example of it but are powered by one of the most versatile and high defensive IQ players in Draymond Green. When done poorly, it kills teams with miscommunications and breakdowns all the while looking lazy.
Switching gets even tougher when offenses know a switch is coming, the Warriors know the Cavs are planning to switch. A big teaching point in switching on screens is that the screen has to actually happen.
The problem for the Cavs in game two, they were showing their intentions to switch before the screen happened, which opened up doors for slips. On the very first play of the game, JaVale McGee is running into a high pick-and-roll, as Kevin Love jumps out to switch onto to Steph Curry. McGee changes course and cuts to the basket for an easy dunk. It happened again, with Curry bring the ball up with pace, it looked like Shaun Livingston was getting ready to set a drag screen (pick-and-roll in transition), LeBron James was already jumping out to switch, Livingston just slips right to the rim.
It wasn’t just on ball screens where the switches hurt the Cavs. Livingston sets up a flare for Curry, Jeff Green jumps out and George Hill is behind Livingston who rolled to the rim and got a layup
Even when they are able to switch, they find themselves at a disadvantage. The Warriors run their vaunted Curry-Durant pick-and-roll, Hill switches on to Curry, but now JR Smith is in a tough spot because as he switches onto Durant he gives up the inside lane and Durant gets an empathic two-hand slam that pretty much seals the game.
In the past switching was considered lazy, and it can certainly look that way when it gives up layup after layup. The Warriors have turned it into a weapon because they are deliberate in their action and are all on the same page, the Rockets showed they are getting to that level. The Cavs, on the other hand, are not close to that level, they have failed switching in pick-and-rolls and off ball screen. They should ditch switching for another scheme because plain and simple it is not work in this series.
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