The Wizards played the defending-champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night to a dead-even tie in almost every statistical category except one, and that part of the game was cited over and over by Washington in recent days heading into their matchup. They knew the Cavs were going to shoot a lot of threes, yet they could not stop that effort.
On Friday, the Cavaliers made less shots (36) than the Wizards (38). They shot for a lower percentage (41.9 to 43.7). The teams tied in assists (16), turnovers (15) and personal fouls (21). But Cleveland ran away with this one in the fourth quarter and finished with a 105-94 victory that saw both benches emptied in garbage time.
That's because the Cavs made 14 threes on 34 attempts, far more than the Wizards, who sank just three on 15 tries. Having Bradley Beal out with a hamstring injury limited their own effort from long range, but defending the three was a fruitless exercise in the defeat.
"We were doing a great job getting stops and getting out there in transition against the bigs," point guard John Wall said. "Then we kind of went away from that and they started to get open and made a lot of threes."
The Cavaliers entered Friday with more three point attempts per game than any other team. They can roll multiple lineups with long range shooters all over the court. Their guards shoot threes. LeBron James shoots threes. Even their big men can shoot; Kevin Love, Mike Dunleavy and Channing Frye, in particular.
James went 3-for-4 from three. J.R. Smith went 5-for-9. Kyrie Irving went 4-for-9, and Frye went 2-for-4. Those four combined to shoot 54 percent (14-for-26) from long range.
"They make you average defensively from the three-point line," head coach Scott Brooks said. "There was many times tonight they had five three-point shooters on the floor. They made just about the same amount of three's that we attempted, but that’s how they play."
It's not just the shooters themselves; the Cavaliers run an offense through James and Irving that sets up open looks. Both can penetrate, and both can pass.
The Wizards have not been good at defending the three-point shot in general this season. Only the Dallas Mavericks have allowed opponents to shoot higher than the 39 percent teams have shot against the Wizards from downtown.
It's a weakness, and the Cavaliers are perfectly designed to exploit it.
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