Found April 03, 2013 on Waiting For Next Year:
Last week in The Diff, I brought you inside the numbers of the Sweet 16. With no more March and no more college basketball for Ohio sports fans, it’s time to move back to the pros. Although the current excitement surrounds the Tribe’s Opening Day win, I’m back for Cavs talk today. During the Cleveland Cavaliers’ ongoing season-high eight-game losing streak, much of the media talk has been directed toward head coach Byron Scott’s future with the organization. I covered the beginning of the talk about 10 days ago. Anonymous players then shared their frustrations with the Akron Beacon Journal’s Jason Lloyd over the weekend. And our very own Scott threw his hat into the ring on Monday. But looming large in these murmurs is this largely unreported fact: The 2012-13 Cavaliers are currently the worst third-quarter and second-half team in the National Basketball Association. By far. In the usual narrative of the Cavs recent rebuild, a solid chapter or two is spent on the much-hyped, high-drama heroics of a certain Mr. Fourth Quarter. In just 101 (out of 144 possible) career games, Kyrie Irving has proven that he deserves to be on the elite short list of the best young talents in the NBA. He’s shocked a lot of folks that might not have expected him to be this good this early. And he’s single-handedly brought the team back from countless deficits in his short career. That’s certainly true. But in these two seasons, for every one Cavs victory, on average, there have been about 2.3 Cavs losses. So for as many spectacular, incredible and incomprehensible fourth-quarter comebacks by Irving company, there have usually been at least 2.3 times as many bone-headed third quarter miscues, confusing rotation patterns or just downright awful second-half play — in other words, lots and lots of blown leads. A near-historic amount this season, in fact. As you likely can tell, I’ve got some statistics to back up these lofty claims. For years and years, has kept track of team records based on leads at different intervals of the game. So, without further posturing, here’s your 2012-13 leaderboard in winning percentage when ahead at halftime and when ahead at the end of the third quarter: AHEAD AT HALFTIME   AHEAD AT END OF 3RD Rk Team W L Pct   Rk Team W L Pct 30 CLE 14 19 0.424 30 CLE 14 12 0.538 29 CHA 9 11 0.450 29 ORL 12 10 0.545 28 NOH 15 14 0.517 28 CHA 11 6 0.647 27 ORL 11 10 0.524 27 MIN 25 12 0.676 26 DET 18 15 0.545 26 MIL 24 11 0.686 NBA SINCE ’05 28.5 10.8 0.725   NBA SINCE ’05 32.4 7.2 0.819 4 SAS 40 6 0.870 4 LAC 43 3 0.935 3 OKC 49 7 0.875 3 MIA 46 3 0.939 2 LAC 41 3 0.932 2 OKC 48 3 0.941 1 MIA 37 2 0.949 1 PHI 26 1 0.963   Take a look at my footnote for source information and a notable caveat 1 . But there’s one thing that should be most glaring to anyone from this chart: The Cleveland Cavaliers rank dead-last in both categories. At some point, your mind likely will then wander to consider the effects of an already good team on these categories. Inherently, a very good team 2 is great at maintaining a lead — or evaporating an opponent’s lead — while bad teams suffer the consequences. Indeed, the correlation r-values support that hypothesis too 3 . The next question you might ask: How do the ’12-’13 Cavaliers compare to the rest of this data set over the last eight years? Well, not so good. And in a way, a bit too poorly compared to their overall record. Here are the bottom 13 teams in both categories: AHEAD AT HALFTIME   AHEAD AT END OF 3RD Rk Tm 82W S Pct Year   Rk Tm 82W Pct Year 1 CHA 9 0.200 ’11-’12 1 MIA 15 0.478 ’07-’08 2 MIA 15 0.222 ’07-’08 2 CLE 25 0.538 ’12-’13 3 NJN 12 0.240 ’09-’10 3 ATL 26 0.538 ’05-’06 4 MIN 15 0.389 ’09-’10 4 ORL 21 0.545 ’12-’13 5 CLE 19 0.400 ’10-’11 5 MIN 22 0.552 ’07-’08 6 OKC 20 0.407 ’07-’08 6 WAS 26 0.567 ’09-’10 7 MIN 17 0.414 ’10-’11 7 MIN 24 0.571 ’08-’09 8 NJN 24 0.414 ’10-’11 8 MEM 22 0.571 ’06-’07 9 MIN 22 0.417 ’07-’08 9 MIN 32 0.581 ’06-’07 10 NOH 26 0.419 ’11-’12 10 MIN 17 0.583 ’10-’11 11 CLE 25 0.424 ’12-’13 11 NOH 26 0.593 ’11-’12 12 LAC 19 0.429 ’08-’09 12 MIL 26 0.593 ’07-’08 13 MIN 24 0.438 ’08-’09 13 SAC 24 0.593 ’10-’11   Overall, the Cavs’ 19 losses when ahead at halftime are the fourth-most since the 2005-06 season. The record is 21. Additionally, the Cavs’ record when ahead after three quarters is proportionally worse, but 19 teams have had 12+ losses in this category over the past eight seasons. The record is 15. For this historical data, it was now intriguing to compare the team’s split percentage to their per-82-game overall success. So yes, over the course of the last eight seasons, the current Cavaliers have been one of the worst in each of these categories. Only four other teams — the 2007-08 Miami Heat and three separate iterations of the Minnesota Timberwolves 4 — place on both of these bottom 13 lists. Only that one Miami team is worse than Cleveland in both splits. As I teased above, it does appear that per the overall team success, Cleveland’s ability to blow leads is a bit unprecedented. In the “Ahead at Halftime” list, only one other team had a winning percentage projected to over 24 wins in an 82-game season. In the “Ahead at end of Third Quarter” list, there were five such other teams along with the Cavs. In essence, I propose that the Cavs’ second-half failure is a bit strange considering they’re not that awful overall. That hunch then led me to another data portal via efficiency differentials by quarter and by half. As a quick primer for those unfamiliar again with efficiency differentials, it measures the net points of a team compared to its opponent per 100 possessions on the court. Splitting the Cavs season into three distinct periods, I present this next table 5 : Split Rec.   1Q 2Q 1H   3Q 4Q 2H   ALL Thru 12/21 5-23 -4.1 -9.0 -6.5 -10.8 -14.1 -12.4 -9.5 12/22-2/28 15-15 -4.2 3.9 -0.2 -4.8 2.7 -1.0 -0.6 Since 3/1 2-13 -0.9 0.9 0.0 -27.8 -14.9 -21.3 -10.5 SEASON 22-51   -3.5 -1.7 -2.6   -11.8 -7.4 -9.6   -6.0   Fairly accurately, this chart above epitomizes the current Cavaliers season. In the first split, the Cavs were a very awful team, despite the health of Anderson Varejao. There was no bench to speak of during this 5-23 start to the season — players such as Samardo Samuels, Jon Leuer and Donald Sloan were receiving meaningful playing time. That’s certainly why, when Varejao, Irving and the other starters sat more in the second or fourth quarters, the bench struggled mightily. Overall, second halves were atrocious. This was a sign of a bad trend. In the second split of the season, post-Varejao’s season-ending injury, the season started to turn around. The main highlight was the Leuer trade that brought a more complete bench to Cleveland in the form of Marreese Speights and Wayne Ellington, plus the signing of Shaun Livingston. This is also where the quarter-by-quarter efficiency flip-flopped: Now, the Cavs were most successful in the second and fourth quarters with this cohesive bench. The team was much more exciting to the tune of a 15-15 stretch and showcasing a top-10 offensive efficiency. Since March 1st, however, the season has suddenly gotten ugly again. Just as many fans were truly starting to enjoy the year, the team fell apart again. And where has this destruction been most noticeable? In the third quarter and second half overall. Shockingly, the Cavs are not the worst third-quarter team since the start of March — that belongs to the recently-awful Detroit Pistons with a -32.5 mark. But they are the worst second-half team overall and it’s a stark contrast to the perfectly mediocre success (0.0 net rating) in the first halves of the last 15 games. On the season, this is where the Cavaliers rank in the NBA by quarter and half in offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency and net efficiency differential: Split O Eff Rk D Eff Rk Net Rk 1Q 100.3 24 103.7 20 -3.5 19 2Q 105.0 14 106.6 23 -1.7 19 1H 102.6 16 105.2 22 -2.6 21 3Q 97.9 26 109.6 30 -11.8 30 4Q 100.8 20 108.2 27 -7.4 28 2H 99.3 25 108.9 29 -9.6 30 ALL 101.1 21 107.1 27 -6.1 27   All of the storylines above again fit this narrative. Now it’s spelled out in black-and-white for all to see: Cleveland is the worst third-quarter and second-half team in the league. The defects are seen both offensively and defensively. And for more perspective, keep in mind that the average NBA efficiency is about 103.0, per HoopData. So while the Cavs offense is still fairly bad overall, it’s the defense that is most off-putting 6 . As one final topic, last month, the 7th annual Sloan Sports Analytics Conference took place at MIT. Our very own Craig attended the conference this year. Although Craig wrote a few articles (this and this) about how the math overload relates to the future of the Cleveland Browns, the bulk of Sloan still relates to basketball statistics. Guys like Daryl Morey are superstars at the conference and, as the NBA is the best sport to follow on social media, there were tons of other great commentators and writers at the conference. One of the most hyped research papers out of Sloan this year was one untitled “Live by the Three, Die by the Three? The Price of Risk in the NBA“, written by Matthew Goldman and Justin M. Rao. The paper dealt with the risk-friendly or risk-averse nature (as measured by percentage of three-point attempts to overall field goal attempts) of NBA teams when leading and when trailing. Thus, there’s potential for a slight overlap with the current Cavs situation. It’s not a perfect fit, but it’s interesting nonetheless. To a certain extent, perhaps the Cavaliers — and Byron Scott — aren’t making proper risk adjustments in the second half of games this season. The team is playing a slightly slower pace in the second half. Three-point frequency and other aspects of the Four Factors didn’t appear to change drastically, but it’s the entire mindset of the franchise that potentially needs to feel more comfortable to be risk-friendly when games are still within reach — and especially when the lead is actually in hand heading into the final 24 minutes. Eventually, Byron Scott’s future will depend upon the team’s ability to hold onto leads and sustain its success throughout the second halves of contests. What is happening this season, and especially since the start of March, could be characterized as either extremely poor in-game coaching, fatigue or maybe just plain tanking. It’s not fair to make a one-sided judgement call and label it one without considering the other But this near-historic failure in the second half is a missing component of what is turning out to be another dark and dreary season at the Q. ___________________________________ Source: 2012-13 NBA data, 2011-12 NBA data. You can then use last year’s to look at the previous years as well (replace 2011 with 2010, etc.). For the historical average, I’ve started with the 2005-06 season since the data from the season before that appears to be incomplete on the NBA website. Also for complete statistical accuracy: I’ve averaged the historical NBA records under these two splits to be per an 82-game season. Obviously, last year there were only 66 games and we’re not done yet this season, so this was a necessary adjustment. Miami, Oklahoma City and the LA Clippers both appear in the top four of these categories. Those first two teams certainly are the odds-on favorites to meet again in the NBA Finals this season R-values are .901 for when leading at halftime and .820 when leading at the end of the third. At one point, I started looking at three-year or longer intervals of success or failures in these categories. Here’s your Minnesota fact du jour: In the six-season stretch 2005-2011, the Timberwolves went 84-95 (.469) when ahead at halftime. Look at the chart above to place that in historical context. It’s ugly. Really, really ugly. The Cavaliers have only played in one overtime game this year so for the purpose of an easy table, that was generally overlooked below. I’ll get to this another day, but I think Scott was right on the money a few weeks ago: A defensive presence on the interior is a huge need long-term for this franchise. The Cavs just can’t stop anyone in the paint right now. And even with Anderson Varejao, things weren’t that different.

Cavs' lack of effort paints ugly big picture

CLEVELAND -- With time running out on another lost season and another embarrassing defeat behind them, the Cavaliers have to ask themselves some serious questions. Namely, how badly do they want to keep this thing together? How long do they want to play for coach Byron Scott? How much suffering are they willing to endure themselves? And how little do they care about the fans...

Scott's future with Cavs in question

Byron Scott was handed a mess three years ago by the Cavaliers. He hasn't been able to clean it up. With his third season as Cleveland's coach draining to its final days, Scott's future with the club is under question. The Cavs lost their 10th straight game on Wednesday night, an embarrassing 113-95 loss to the New Jersey Nets, who were missing two starters but still...

The Cleveland Cavaliers have developed an asinine ‘recovery plan’ for Kyrie Irving

As part of an asinine “recovery plan,” superior Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving will not compete in consecutive games for the rest of the 2012-2013 campaign. The 21-year-old Irving, averaging 23.2 points, 5.7 assists and 3.7 rebounds over 50 contests, has been plagued with a bummed knee and sprained left shoulder for the better part of a month. Irving, a 6-foot-3...

Another year for Byron Scott was always part of the process

All firing Byron Scott would do now is send the false message to Cavaliers fans that the organization was actually trying to win games in 2012-13 with the roster assembled. This is what I reminded myself as Twitter erupted with cries for Scott's job last night following an uninspired loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Winning this year specifically was never the primary objective...

Of Cavaliers and Quitting

The locker room had the aura of a funeral home. Suited men stood at the entry way, greeting—watching. Silence echoed off of the maple, those impacted by the loss slowly shuffled about with their heads hanging and faces oozing disappointment. Some sat, some leaned; others came and went without saying a word. Laid to rest was the last 48 minutes of basketball, the Cleveland Cavaliers...

Scott’s future with Cavs in question (Yahoo! Sports)

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Byron Scott was handed a mess three years ago by the Cavaliers. He hasn't been able to clean it up.,

While We’re Waiting… Byron Scott and the hot seat

While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at “I do realize the collective product is increasingly terrible and I know the Cavaliers are the worst defensive unit in the NBA at the moment. I also listened to a pregame...

Game 74 Preview: Brooklyn Nets (42-31) at Cleveland Cavaliers (22-51)

After resting in the Cavs' last game because of a previous shoulder injury, New Jersey native Kyrie Irving should be at nearly 100 percent this evening in Cleveland vs the Nets When: 7:00 PM; Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013   Where: Quicken Loans Arena; Cleveland, OH   TV: WWOR (Channel 9 for most New Yorkers)   ...

Tristan Thompson Issues Support For Byron Scott

The Cavaliers have lost 10 straight games and Byron Scott's future has come into question because of a 62-160 record over three seasons.

Cavaliers play April Fool’s style prank on Dion Waiters a few days early

A timeless tradition like no other. No, we aren’t talking about The Masters. We’re talking about the old popcorn in the car gag. Apparently the veterans decided it was time for Cavs rookie Dion Waiters to enjoy some tasty popped corn on Friday. [Related: Byron Scott falls victim to generational gap, frustration]


  It was like watching a Browns game.  There were expectations.  Kyrie Irving’s return in a matchup of premier point guards, Byron Scott coaching against his former Eastern Conference Champion team, a chance for some revenge on Brook Lopez.  Former Cavs head coach Mike Fratello on the sidelines calling the game for the Nets YES network, probably fresh off a visit to his...
NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.