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Random dribbles on the Cavaliers, who face the Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series Monday:
1. The Cavs have to defend better than they have since about, oh, Februray. They keep saying they know that, but things were barely better in Game 1. In fact, if it weren’t for a couple of Kyrie Irving late-game steals, I’d say the Cavs look about the same on defense — bad.
2. Pacers swingman C.J. Miles got the look his team wanted at the end. You can talk all you want about Paul George not taking the last shot, but the bottom line is the Cavs left Miles open. Granted, you take your chances with an up-and-down player such as Miles. But with the game in the balance, the Cavs should not be offering open looks.
3. Basically, the fact Miles was so open at the end shows the Cavs have just done a horrific job of rotating late in the season. With the playoffs here, Coach Tyronn Lue has his team switching on pick and rolls, leaving the big men out to defend the perimeter. It actually worked well in the Finals last year — with the length of Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love creating havoc for opposing guards.
4. But something just seems “off” with the Cavs at that end of the floor today. Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye and Deron Williams seem old and slow at times. J.R. Smith isn’t the same staunch defender he was last season — although he did do a decent job in Game 1.
5. The Cavs will need more of that from Smith, as Iman Shumpert didn’t even get in the game. Shumpert used to be the Cavs’ best perimeter defender. He still has the team’s quickest hands. But he has looked lost at both ends for much of the season. Lue can’t afford to keep giving Shumpert chance after chance. Perhaps the benching will wake him up.
6. Part of that, of course, is the rotation is always tighter in the playoffs — simply because the starters player a lot more. So Lue needed to choose between Williams and Shumpert, and Shumpert and Kyle Korver. Of the three, Shumpert has played the worst lately.
7. The Cavs need to find more shots for Korver and Smith. Those two should be playing off of Irving, Love and LeBron James much more, spotting up and knocking ’em down. Too often, it seems as if both Korver and Smith are just sort of out there, running up and down the floor. They need to be utilized.
8. I know. This all sounds dire for a team with a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. But for the Cavs, it’s not about beating Indiana as much as it is preparing to get out of the East and playing for another championship.
9. Of course, the Cavs were the only top-three seed in the East to win the postseason opener. Third-seeded Toronto was dumped by Milwaukee, and No. 1 Boston already lost home-court advantage vs. Chicago.
10. Game 2 will be broadcast on both FOX Sports Ohio and TNT. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. You can catch “Cavaliers Live” pre- and post-game shows on FSO. Pregame is 6:30. I’ll have a quick Game 2 primer here and on NEO Sports Insiders shortly.