Multiple Cavs players openly question team’s defensive scheme from meltdown vs. Clippers

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Multiple Cleveland Cavaliers players questioned the team’s defensive strategy following a crushing loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, according to’s Chris Fedor.

The Cavs led by as many as 26 points on Sunday, but they ended up getting outscored 61-38 in the second half to lose 120-118 in Los Angeles.

“Multiple players openly questioned the defensive strategy afterward,” Fedor wrote. “They wondered why the Cavs didn’t attempt to blitz the scorching [Paul] George and force someone else to play offensive hero.”

George had a massive game for the Clippers, scoring 39 points on 10-of-24 shooting from the field (3-of-9 from 3 and 16-of-16 from the charity stripe) to lead the Clippers – who were without Kawhi Leonard – to a win.

“Tried to force him to take tough shots and stuff like that,” Cavs big man Evan Mobley said of George. “But he kept making them and kept getting what he wanted. Feel like we probably should’ve tried to change some things and thrown something else at him, forced them to do something else.”

James Harden also had a solid game for Los Angeles (22 points on 6-of-11 shooting), but George took 11 more shots than any other player on the team on Sunday. Norman Powell (5-of-13 from the field off the bench) attempted the second-most shots for the Clippers. The Cavs were unable to force another player to beat them down the stretch.

Cavs guard Darius Garland offered a potential coverage that the Cavs could have used in order to try to slow George down late in the game.

“Double him,” Garland said regarding how they could’ve stopped George. “Try to get the ball out of his hand. He’s a Hall-of-Famer and he’s going to make tough shots and tough buckets. That’s what he does and what he gets paid the big bucks for.”

Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff may need to alter how his team defends down the stretch of games, especially with the playoffs on the horizon. Cleveland can’t afford to blow any more big leads if it wants a chance to make a deep playoff run in the 2023-24 campaign.

The loss on Sunday was a tough one for Cleveland, as it knocked it back to the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference after both the New York Knicks (No. 4 in the East) and Orlando Magic (No. 3 seed in the East) won on Sunday.

Cleveland has now lost three straight games and seven of its last 10. While the team is still within striking distance of the No. 2 seed (1.5 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks), it only has three games left in the regular season.

The Cavs will look to right the ship on Wednesday, April 10 when they take on the Memphis Grizzlies at home. That game is scheduled to tip off at 7:00 p.m. EST.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.