June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

Cavaliers are on top of their game


Assistant Sports Editor

CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers entered their game against the Golden State Warriors on Friday night with the second-best field goal percentage in the NBA at .487. They were also fourth in the league in scoring at 103.5 per game.

And Mike Brown is supposed to be a horrible offensive coach?

“We have some good offensive players,” Brown said. “Good offensive players have made it look like I know how to coach.”

Superstar LeBron James, however, was quick to credit Brown for installing “a new offensive system” that is allowing the Cavaliers “to get up and down more.”

The small forward also pointed to the acquisition of point guard Mo Williams and Delonte West’s shift to shooting guard as reasons for Cleveland’s improved offensive output.

“Guys are getting good shots, but giving up good shots for even better shots,” James said. “We’ve always been good at moving the ball, but we’re doing it even better this year.”

It doesn’t hurt that the Cavaliers have a lot of players who can put the ball in the hole on a regular basis, not to mention guys who know when to shoot and when not to.

The latter is why Anderson Varejao, who rarely makes a shot that isn’t a layup, entered Friday as the team leader in field goal percentage (.597) among players who are in Brown’s normal rotation. West (.533), Wally Szczerbiak (.530) and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (.518) were also above .500, while James (.487) and Williams (.451), the team’s top two scorers, had very respectable percentages.

“We’re not really doing that much different (from previous seasons),” said Brown, who declined to take credit for the improved numbers.

A season ago, the Cavaliers shot .439 from the field and averaged 96.4 points, which was actually 0.3 less than they gave up. This season, Cleveland was not only scoring 103.5 prior to Friday, it was giving up just 92.9 points (7th-lowest in NBA) on .424 shooting (4th).

Good defense, of course, is expected from a team coached by Brown. Now, it appears the offense is catching up, which is why the Cavaliers’ 10.6-point differential prior to Friday was second-best in the league.

“We know if we execute our offense, we’re going to get good shots,” James said.

It’s probably farfetched, but the Cavaliers have an opportunity to shoot 50 percent for the season, which only Phoenix did in 2007-08. Cleveland had topped the .500 mark in three straight contests heading into the game against the Warriors, who were ranked 29th in the league in defense, meaning it could possibly make a run at the team record of .502 set in 1988-89.

“Are we capable of shooting 50 percent for the year?” Brown asked. “I wouldn’t put anything past us.”

SIR CHARLES: Former NBA star and current TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley has said several times recently that it’s disrespectful to Cleveland fans and the Cavaliers organization for James to allow speculation about his potential 2010 free agency to run rampant. In Barkley’s opinion, James should come out and say he wants to stay in Cleveland, barring something totally unexpected. Asked about Sir Charles’ comments, James said, “He’s stupid. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

BEST STARTS: The Cavaliers entered Friday with a 12-3 record, which was the best start in the 39-year history of the franchise. Cleveland started 11-3 in 1976-77 and 1988-89. The Cavaliers were also 8-0 at home going into Friday. They started 9-0 in 1976-77 and 1991-92.

MOVIE MOGUL: Lionsgate Studio has picked up worldwide rights to “More Than a Game,” a documentary about James’ life. The small forward said the film is scheduled to be released next fall.

Noland may be reached at rickn@ohio.net or 330-721-4061.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.