TrueHoop: Cleveland Cavaliers

Mind of the Fan: LeBron's homecoming

October, 20, 2014
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
videoIt took years, but LeBron James is finally more popular than ever, according to an ESPN Sports Poll. In the latest September survey, 18.4 percent of NBA fans cited James as their favorite player, almost double the 9.4 percent figure from the 2011-12 season, when he was still mired in Decision backlash.

But LeBron's surge in popularity is confined to certain demographics.

The "I'm coming home" bump was pronounced among whites and Hispanics polled. In the 2012-13 season, 9.7 percent of white NBA fans listed LeBron as their favorite player. That figure crept up to 13.2 percent last season and registered at 16.0 percent in the latest September survey.

Hispanics supported LeBron to the tune of 13.5 percent during the 2013-14 season and now do so at 17.4 percent. Even though LeBron rejected a heavily Latino market in Miami, his homeward turn certainly didn't hurt him with Hispanics polled.

There wasn't much evidence of LeBron's move resonating with African-American NBA fans or younger NBA fans. LeBron was the favorite player for 28.1 percent of the African-American NBA fans polled during the 2013-14 season. Our latest figures show no "I'm coming home" impact in that demographic, with LeBron most recently registering as the favorite player for 27.8 percent of African-American fans.

Younger demographics also received the LeBron news with apathy. Fans ages 12 to 17 went from a 22.4 percent favorite rating during the season to 21.4 percent in our September report. Support among fans age 18 to 34 crept up only 0.6 percent during this time frame. The millennial NBA fan seems to care little as to where LeBron works.

In stark contrast, older fans wholly embraced LeBron's embrace of his old team. The 35-54 demographic went from 14.7 percent support to 18.4 percent. Fans over the age of 55 went from 11.7 percent to 16.6 percent. LeBron's summer bump was powered by fans over the age of 35.

There might be a connection between how LeBron's return was received and how inclined the fan receiving it is to root for a local team. Older fans are generally more likely to support the local squad. Last season, 57.5 percent of fans over the age of 55 said they support the team in their market. Only 39.1 percent of fans 12-17 said they support the in-market team. There's a similar contrast between white and African-American NBA fans, with 58 percent of white fans supporting the local team to 37 percent black fans pledging local allegiance.

LeBron's popularity had been slowly building after falling precipitously in the Decision aftermath. In surveys conducted during the 2013-14 season, 16.1 percent of NBA fans named him as their favorite player. In surveys conducted over July and August, that figure jumped to 20.7 percent. Some of that positive feeling has since ebbed -- James isn't the story in the sports news cycle like he was in the summer -- but much of the afterglow still surrounds him. His latest 18.4 percent favorite rating easily exceeds his old Cleveland apex of popularity in 2010 (15.6 percent).

In terms of reputation, leaving Miami has been the opposite of leaving Cleveland. When LeBron ditched the Cavs in 2010, his favorite rating sank from that 15.6 percent figure to 10.2 percent in his first season with the Heat. Spurning Cleveland meant a sudden loss in over a third of his fans. In stark contrast, breaking hearts in Miami has led to many new LeBron converts nationwide, especially among demographics that tend to root local.

It would appear that if you root for the home team, you're more predisposed to cheer LeBron for coming home. If you like rooting for local clothing, you were probably rooting for Cleveland.

Anthony Bennett struggles out of the gate

November, 6, 2013
By Steven Martinez & Micah Adams
ESPN Stats & Info

ESPN Stats & InformationAnthony Bennett has yet to make a field goal in his NBA career
The top overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft has started his career on the wrong foot.

Anthony Bennett has scored just two points (two free throws) over the first four games of his career despite seeing 50 minutes of playing time.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the fewest points by a No. 1 overall pick through four games in the common draft era (since 1966).

Bennett has taken shots from various areas of the floor, but of his 15 misses, eight have come from the 3-point line.

The only other UNLV player to be drafted first overall was Larry Johnson by the Charlotte Hornets in 1991 (now the New Orleans Pelicans). In Johnson’s first season in 1991-92 (in which he won Rookie of the Year), he recorded at least one field goal every game. Johnson played 707 games in his career and was held scoreless in only three.

And when comparing Bennett to the Cavaliers' other recent first overall picks, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, he doesn’t stack up well, either. James has never had a 0-for-15 stretch in his career, and he’s in his 11th NBA season.

Irving has just one 0-for-15 stretch in his career. It was from Feb. 13-20, 2013, when he missed exactly 15 straight field goal attempts.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us the last player to start his career by missing each of his first 15 field goal attempts was Rolando Ferreira of the Portland Trail Blazers. Ferreira missed his first 17 to start the 1988-89 season.

5 Notes to Know: 2013 NBA Draft

June, 27, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Information
The 2013 NBA Draft begins Thursday night at 7 pm eastern at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY (Live on ESPN & WatchESPN). Let’s run through five notes to know before the action gets underway:

• The Cleveland Cavaliers have the first-overall pick for the fifth time in team history, tied with the Houston Rockets for most in the Common Draft Era (since 1966). It’s also the second time that the Cavs have held the No. 1 pick the last three years. The Elias Sports Bureau says they would be the fourth team to pick first overall twice in a three-year span, joining the Magic (1992 and 1993), the Rockets (1983 and 1984) and Trail Blazers (1972 and 1974).

• The Orlando Magic hold the second pick and they have had good luck with the organization’s five previous top-five selections. Three of them – Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Webber and Mike Miller – won Rookie of the Year, and three of them – O’Neal, Webber and Dwight Howard – have each been selected to at least five All-Star Games. Webber, of course, was selected first overall by the Magic in 1993 but traded to the Warriors on draft night.

• According to Elias, at least one son of a former NBA player has been selected in each of the last 11 drafts. Last year it was Austin Rivers, son of Doc, who was taken 10th overall by the Pelicans (then Hornets). Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr., son of Tim, is one player that would continue the streak should be selected in 2013.

• The Hawks, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, and Trail Blazers each have four selections in the 2013 draft, tied for most by any team. It’s the second straight year that Portland has four picks and it’s the third straight year with at least four picks for the Cavaliers. Conversely, the Warriors, Heat, and Raptors are the only three teams without a 2013 draft pick.

• Since the NBA draft lottery began in 1985, 13 of the 28 first-overall picks went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award, most recently Kyrie Irving for the Cavaliers in 2011-12. The last player selected first overall that won the Rookie of the Year Award and reached the postseason was Derrick Rose for the Bulls in 2008-09. The last player to do so and win a playoff series? Tim Duncan for the Spurs in 1997-98. Duncan is also the last player to win an NBA title with the team that selected him first overall.

Anatomy of LeBron's largest comeback

March, 21, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Information

David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
LeBron James (6) of the Miami Heat controls the ball defended by Alonzo Gee (33) of the Cleveland Cavaliers at The Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday night.
With 7:03 left in the third quarter on Wednesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers were rolling the Miami Heat, 67-40. Then Cleveland's proverbial wheels came flying off.

Over the next 8:37, Miami outscored the Cavs 37-10, hitting 12 of 18 shots and outrebounding Cleveland 12-3. Simultaneously, the Cavaliers made only 3 of 11 shots and turned the ball over four times. At one point during that stretch, the Heat scored on 15 straight possessions.

LeBron James scored Miami's final eight points in the game-tying run, as part of his massive fourth quarter. He had 14 fourth-quarter points and assisted on eight more, accounting for 22 of the Heat's 30 fourth-quarter points.

No player has accounted for a higher percentage of his team's fourth-quarter offense in a single game this season, and the result was the biggest comeback win of LeBron James' career.

James also compiled his 36th career triple-double (25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists), which is second-most among active players. But he won't be catching the leader anytime soon; Jason Kidd ranks first among active players with 107 triple-doubles.

How rare is a 27-point comeback?
This was the third such comeback win this season, but it's not a common thing. In the last 15 seasons, teams trailing by 27 or more in the second half had five wins in 2,018 games entering tonight, for a miniscule win percentage of .002. Incidentally, the largest comeback win in NBA history is 36 points, by the Jazz against the Nuggets in 1996.

Miami trailed by 21 points at halftime, making this the largest halftime deficit overcome to win in Heat history. Over the entire second half, the Heat scored 145.7 points per 100 possessions, their third-highest offensive efficiency in a half this season.

Oh by the way, Miami has now won 24 consecutive games, leaving the Heat nine wins shy of tying the 1971-72 Lakers for the NBA’s longest win streak. Miami's next three games are against opponents at least 20 games below .500 (Pistons, Bobcats, Magic).

Drafting a post presence ideal for Cavaliers

June, 26, 2012
By Ryan Feldman, ESPN Stats & Info
The Cleveland Cavaliers found their franchise point guard, Kyrie Irving, in the 2011 NBA Draft. Here are some areas the Cavaliers might look to bolster through their picks in this year's draft.

The Cavaliers were the second-worst shooting team in the NBA this season at 42 percent from the field. Only the Charlotte Bobcats had a lower field-goal percentage. The Cavs scored just 92.3 points per game, the sixth-fewest in the league.

Cleveland was the most inefficient post-up team in the NBA this season. The Cavaliers averaged just 0.69 points per post-up play, which ranked last.

The Cavaliers shot 36 percent on post-up plays, ahead of only the Milwaukee Bucks, and scored just 346 points from the post, which ranked third-worst in the NBA.

The Brooklyn Nets were the only team that recorded fewer blocked shots per game this season than the Cavaliers. The Nets, Bobcats and Sacramento Kings were the only teams that allowed a higher field-goal percentage than the Cavs.

The Cavs also allowed the sixth-most points in the paint and fifth-most second-chance points, so adding some size and a defensive force down low could be a priority for Cleveland.

Based on their statistical weaknesses, the perfect scenario for the Cavaliers would be to draft a player at No. 4 who could be a defensive presence down low and a post-up threat on the offensive end.

A 7-footer who can improve the team’s shot-blocking, keep teams from scoring around the basket, and open up the Cavs offense would be ideal. But which players would fit that mold once Anthony Davis is off the board?

After Davis, the top big men prospects include Kansas’s Thomas Robinson, Connecticut’s Andre Drummond, Illinois’s Meyers Leonard, and North Carolina’s John Henson and Tyler Zeller.

Of those players, Leonard ranks as the most-efficient post-up player. He averaged 1.05 points per post-up play and shot 53 percent on shots in the post. Virginia’s Mike Scott is the only draft prospect who was more efficient in the post this season.

Robinson, Drummond, Henson and Zeller all ranked outside the top 175 of the 488 players with at least 50 post-up plays this season. Not a single draft prospect had fewer points per post-up play than Drummond, who ranked 474th.

Defensively, no draft prospect ranks better than Henson. Henson allowed the third-fewest points per play (0.62) in the nation last year (min. 200 plays).

Robinson ranked 11th and Drummond 32nd in that group; at the other end, Leonard, the tallest and most-efficient post player of the bunch, ranked 251st.

Henson and Drummond are the best defensive prospects in terms of protecting the rim.

They each ranked in the top 15 in the country in blocked shots; Leonard, Zeller and Robinson all ranked outside of the top 50.

Statistical support for this story from

Get the information you need to be ready for the draft and follow the action Thursday night on Twitter @ESPNStatsInfo.

Bobcats fighting odds in Lottery

May, 28, 2012
By ESPN Stats & Information
Wednesday's NBA Draft Lottery (ESPN, 8 ET) sees the Charlotte Bobcats with the best odds at acquiring the top selection (25.0 percent) after finishing 7-59 on the season. But the worst record hardly secures the top pick, as just last year the Cleveland Cavaliers won the Draft Lottery with only a 2.8 percent chance.

In addition, since the lottery moved to its present format in 1994, the team with (or tied for) the best odds has won just three of the 18 lotteries: Philadelphia 76ers in 1996 (Allen Iverson), Cavaliers in 2003 (LeBron James) and Orlando Magic in 2004 (Dwight Howard). By comparison, the teams with the third and fifth-best odds have won four times.

It is new territory for the Bobcats franchise. Since joining the NBA in 2004, Charlotte has never held the No. 1 overall pick, and the Bobcats highest selection was in 2004 when they picked Emeka Okafor No. 2 overall (the Bobcats originally had the No. 4 pick, but traded with the Los Angeles Clippers).

Ten current franchises have never made the No. 1 overall pick in an NBA draft since 1966 (start of common draft). Along with the Bobcats, the Phoenix Suns (0.6 percent chance) are the only other team in the 2012 lottery.

The Houston Rockets, meanwhile, have a 0.5 percent chance of winning the lottery, the third straight year they have held the worst odds. In addition, this is the fifth time in the last 12 years the Rockets have missed the playoffs despite having a winning record.

Looking ahead, since the start of the lottery in 1985, 13 of the 27 No. 1 overall picks have gone on to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, including 2011 No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving. In addition, since 1990, four overall No. 1 picks went on to win the Rookie of the Year award and make the postseason (Derrick Rose, Tim Duncan, Chris Webber and David Robinson).

Rust versus rest out West

May, 15, 2012
By Micah Adams, ESPN Stats & Information
Coming off a pair of 1st-Round sweeps, the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs are each on the front end of series against teams coming off a seven-game series.

The Thunder had eight days off prior to their 29-point demolition of the Los Angeles Lakers (one day of rest) on Monday. The Spurs, who will have had seven days off, open their series Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers (one day of rest).

Is it possible for a team to have too much time off between series? At what point does "rest" lend itself to "rust"? If recent history is any indication, "rust" is overrated.

Over the last 15 seasons, teams with at least seven days off are now a perfect 6-0 against teams with just a single day to recover. What's shocking might not be the perfect 6-0 record, but the fact that the games haven't even been close.

The average margin of victory in those six games is nearly 25 points per game. The only one of those six games to be decided by single digits was Game 1 of last year's Western Conference Finals in which the Dallas Mavericks beat the Thunder by nine after leading by as many as 16 in the fourth quarter.

Just how important is that extra day of rest for the team with the quick turnaround? Whereas teams with a week off are perfect when their opponents have just a single day to recover, they are just 5-7 when their opponents have two or more days of rest while averaging 23.5 fewer points per game.

The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that over the last 10 years, there were six series played between one team coming off a sweep and the other off a seven-game series. Five of those six series were won by the team coming off the sweep, with the lone exception being the Orlando Magic's elimination of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals.

Clippers-Spurs Key Notes

- The team that wins Game 1 of a seven-game series goes on to win 78.2 percent of the time (337-94, including the 1st Round this year).

- This is their first-ever meeting in the postseason.

- The Spurs are 26-2 at home against the Clippers since drafting Tim Duncan. The .929 win percentage is tied for their third-best at home against any team over that span (27-0 vs Golden State Warriors; 14-0 vs Atlanta Hawks).

- To say these teams have differing levels of success in the postseason would be a drastic understatement. Despite being in the NBA for six fewer seasons, the Spurs have more NBA titles (four) than the Clippers have series wins (three). The Spurs have more than four times as many series wins (34) as the Clippers have playoff appearances (eight).

- Much of the focus will be on the matchup between Chris Paul (third in MVP voting) and Tony Parker (fifth in MVP voting). The two have faced off seven times in the postseason, with Parker winning four times. Paul has enjoyed the statistical advantage, averaging 23.7 points per game and 10.7 assists per game (19.4 PPG, 5.7 APG for Parker).

Statistical support for this story given by

Outscoring opponents in the clutch

April, 17, 2012
By Henry Abbott, Trevor Ebaugh, Stats & Info
Mike Brown
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
The last four years he has coached, Mike Brown's teams have led the league.

Basketball geekery has delved into crunch time in various ways.
  • First there was individual field goal percentage. That's where we learned that the players we thought owned crunch time (for instance Kobe Bryant and Chauncey Billups) actually miss a lot.
  • A year ago, we added something new, looking at team offenses. That's a more important measure, assuming you value wins more than highlights. Who cares who gets the bucket, so long as they're on your team? That's where we learned that most teams were about the same, with some exceptions, including Chris Paul's Hornets, which were amazing.

But all that is only part of the picture. Because as much as we love clutch buckets, clutch wins also have a ton to do with defense. If you're going to point to any team as elite in the clutch, that must be included, and now it is.

As John Hollinger has explained, a lot of what teams do in crunch time is likely random. Looking at tiny parts of games creates some wacky results without a lot of predictive value ... anyone who says they know a team will do well in crunch time is likely fibbing. All teams do both well and poorly at different times. But defense may be a bit of an exception. Teams do seem to play defense with a certain consistency late in games.

Using data from the last five years (current as of today), from games within five points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, Trevor Ebaugh of ESPN Stats & Info. dug in and created this pretty Tableau table:

Some of what we noticed:
  • The Cavaliers of LeBron James and Mike Brown were unreal in crunch time, leading the league by a hefty margin for three straight years, with the best performances of any teams in the record. It's easy to see that LeBron James matters here -- once he left for Miami the Cavaliers’ plus/minus plummeted. The Cavs averaged plus-113 with James during those three seasons, and plus one in the two seasons since. Meanwhile, before James, the Heat weren't good in crunch time, but have since become very solid.
  • Mike Brown emerges as an interesting character in crunch time. With James in Cleveland three straight years, and now in Los Angeles after a year off, his teams led the league by this metric every year he has coached in the last half-decade. In this period, neither team has been as good with other coaches, either.
  • The Lakers have by far the best crunch time plus/minus this season (plus-79, the Pacers are second at plus-65). Pau Gasol (plus-78) has been their biggest individual star, followed closely by Andrew Bynum (plus-74). Kobe Bryant ranks third at plus-58. The Lakers achieved this number with the NBA's second-best clutch offense (behind the Magic) and the eighth-best defense.
  • Three teams have shone for five straight years: The Lakers, Celtics and Magic. The Nuggets are flirting with joining that club, too.
  • Superstars matter. Or, at least some do. LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul almost always end the season positive in this regard -- the only exceptions are Paul and Nowitzki this year, which could still change. Other big names, like Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade have had more mixed results.
  • Good teams in general do well in crunch time. The top six teams in crunch time plus/minus this season have already locked up playoff spots, for instance (Lakers, Pacers, Hawks, Magic, Spurs and Bulls). But it's hardly a perfect correlation. In fact, surely a lot of what we're seeing in this chart appears to be simple randomness. The Pacers, terrible for a long time, are suddenly leaders. The Kings are excellent crunch time defenders this season. The Hawks are a solid team that is way better than solid late in games. And plenty of good teams -- the Sixers, the Knicks -- are pretty bad with the game on the line.
  • Over the past half-decade, just two teams, the Knicks and Timberwolves, haven't had a single season in positive territory.
  • The top ten late-game offensive teams this season are the Magic, Lakers, Grizzlies, Bulls, Hawks, Pacers, Rockets, Thunder, Spurs and Knicks.
  • The Pacers are by far this season's best defensive team late in close games. They are followed by the Hawks, Kings (!), Spurs, Heat, Magic, Bulls, Lakers, Thunder and Clippers.
  • The Dallas Mavericks have been very good for the last five years, but also have had the biggest drop-off in crunch time performance, from a league-leading plus-117 last season to an anemic minus-16 this season.
  • The Hawks have been good in crunch time for four straight years.
  • The Spurs and Thunder have been up and down.
  • The Houston Rockets (plus-31) and Memphis Grizzlies (plus-28) are the best crunch time teams this season that have yet to lock up a playoff spot. The Los Angeles Clippers (minus-9) are the only playoff team with a negative clutch plus/minus.

Mostly, this feels like it's the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot more to learn about all this, and one of the big questions on the horizon is something Bill James has wrestled with in baseball for quite some time: Is there such a thing as clutch time performers? Are there really players or teams who do better with the game on the line?

That's still not something we know. What we do know is that a lot of what we thought we knew was wrong.

More special rookie: Irving or Rubio?

February, 25, 2012
By Ryan Feldman, ESPN Stats & Info
At the All-Star break, two rookies have separated themselves from the rest of the 2011 draft class.

Sure, Kemba Walker has the only triple-double among rookies, MarShon Brooks has proven to be a reliable scorer, Gustavo Ayón has been effective since becoming a starter, and Isaiah Thomas has been a pleasant surprise considering he was the last player drafted.

But thus far, it’s been Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio who have positioned themselves as the frontrunners to win Rookie of the Year. Here’s how they’ve done it:

Kyrie Irving
The Cavaliers were the worst in the East last season, but with Irving leading the way, they’re ninth in the conference, a game-and-a-half out of the playoffs.

Offensively, Cleveland is much better when Irving is on the floor. The Cavs score more, shoot better, have more assists and fewer turnovers.

Irving is averaging 18.1 PPG while making nearly 42 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Only one other rookie has ever averaged 18 points and made at least 40 percent of their 3-point attempts. That was Larry Bird, who averaged 21 points and shot almost 41 percent from 3-point range as a rookie.

And if Irving can improve his field goal percentage (47.6 FG pct) in the second half of the season, he has a chance of shooting 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range, and 80 percent from the free throw line.

Only Mark Price (1987-88, 1988-89) and Steve Kerr (1991-92) have accomplished a “50-40-80” season in Cavaliers history.

Ricky Rubio
The Minnesota Timberwolves had the worst record in the NBA last season (17-65). But they have as many wins this season through 34 games as they did last season. Minnesota sits 10th in the Western Conference, one game out of the playoffs.

Their top six scorers from 2010-11 remain, but the main difference this season is Rubio. When he’s on the court, the Timberwolves are +68, but when he’s off the court, they’re -28.

Teammates thrive when Rubio is in the game. He assists on nearly 39 percent of their field goals when he’s on the floor, the highest assist percentage for a rookie in the last five seasons (minimum 20 games).

Rubio has been especially effective as a distributor in the 4th quarter. He leads the NBA in 4th quarter assists this season with 64, ahead of more seasoned veterans like Jose Calderon and Deron Williams.

Rubio is fifth in the NBA in assists per game and second in steals per game. Only three rookies in NBA history -- Tim Hardaway, Mark Jackson and Phil Ford -- have averaged at least 10 points, eight assists and two steals per game, and Rubio is on pace to join them.

Heat, Hibbert among night's best

February, 22, 2012
By ESPN Stats & Information
The Miami Heat were in a zone against the Sacramento Kings' zone defense in their 120-108 win on Tuesday night.

The Kings spent almost the entire first half trying to contain the Heat’s potent half-court offense by playing a zone . That’s something that had worked for other teams earlier this season, but not for the Kings in this contest.

The Heat entered having scored on 42 percent of their possessions against zone defenses. But the Kings' zone posed no problems. The Heat scored 47 points against Sacramento’s zone defense, shooting 65 percent against it.

Heat guard Mario Chalmers tied a career-high by making six three-pointers. Four of those came on spot-up jumpers. He typically averages a pair of baskets on spot-ups per game.

The Heat have won seven straight games by 10 or more points, the second-longest streak in Heat franchise history. The last time a streak of seven or more such wins occurred in the NBA was when the Heat won a team-record nine in a row last season.

Reversal of Fortune
The Portland Trail Blazers ended the San Antonio Spurs 11-game winning streak on a night in which Tim Duncan and Tony Parker both sat to rest.

This was a game that was over early. One night after scoring a franchise-record low seven points in the first quarter, the Trail Blazers tallied an NBA season-high 41 first-quarter points.

The 137 points that Portland scored in its win was its most since 1997. The 40-point defeat was the Spurs worst defeat, also since 1997.

Feat of the Night
Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert scored a career-high 30 points in an overtime win against the New Orleans Hornets.
Roy Hibbert
Hibbert hadn’t even reached the 20-point mark in his last 14 games.

The primary reason for his success on Tuesday? Offensive rebounding.

Hibbert had seven offensive rebounds and converted five baskets from them, netting 11 points for himself. He entered averaging only 2.4 points from offensive rebounds (so around one basket) per game.

Plus-Minus Note of the Night
All four Cleveland Cavaliers reserves had a positive plus-minus, and all five of their starters had a negative one in their 101-100 win over the Detroit Pistons.

The most notable of the Cavs subs was Alonzo Gee, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds. In his 25 minutes, the Cavaliers outscored the Pistons by 14 points. It was his second-best plus-minus of the season.

The "I" in Knicks spells doom again

January, 21, 2012
By ESPN Stats & Information
The Milwaukee Bucks beat the New York Knicks who have now lost five straight games and stand at 6-9. Although Carmelo Anthony scored 35 points in the loss, the Knicks now stand at just 20-21 since trading for him last February.

A trend of leaning on Anthony in isolation continued against Milwaukee, as Anthony accounted for 15 of the Knicks’ 19 plays in isolation. On the season, the Knicks have ran a higher percentage of isolation plays than any other team, but are shooting just 29.3 percent on such plays, the worst in the NBA.

Brandon Jennings scored a season-high 36 points in the win, but did so without attempting a single free throw. He is the first player to score at least that many points without attempting a free throw since Jason Richardson in January 2008. Two of the three highest scoring games of his career have now come at Madison Square Garden, having hung 37 on March 25 of last season.

Dwight Howard had 21 points and 23 rebounds to lead the Orlando Magic over the Los Angeles Lakers 92-80. It was Howard’s fifth game with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds this season, more than the rest of the NBA combined. According to Elias, Howard is the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76 with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in five of his team’s first 15 games of the season.

Although Kobe Bryant scored 30 points, the Lakers offense continues to struggle as they failed to top 100 points for the 10th straight game. That is tied for the second-longest such streak by the Lakers in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55).

Despite playing without Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls won 114-75, handing the Cleveland Cavaliers their worst home loss in franchise history. According to Elias, the 39-point margin of victory is the second-largest ever by the Bulls over the Cavaliers, trailing only a 121-80 result on December 22, 1970.

Chicago held Cleveland to just 30.3 percent shooting, the fifth-lowest allowed in a game this season. It was the fifth time this season the Bulls have held their opponent to under 35 percent shooting. The Lakers are the only other team with even three such games this season.

• The Philadelphia 76ers beat the Atlanta Hawks 90-76 to improve to 11-4, their best start since starting 11-4 in 2002-03.

• LaMarcus Aldrige had 33 points, 23 rebounds and five assists to lead the Portland Trail Blazers over the Toronto Raptors. He is only the sixth player in the last 25 seasons to reach those threshold in a single game and the first to do it since Kevin Garnett in 2003-04.

• The Detroit Pistons scored 81 points in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. It’s Pistons’ 16th straight game they have failed to score 100 points, their third-longest such streak in the shot-clock era.

Irving better than Paul, LeBron as rookie?

January, 19, 2012
By Justin Havens

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty ImagesKyrie Irving is just 13 games into his NBA career, but he's already had a big impact on the Cleveland Cavaliers and is on pace to be one of the greatest rookie guards.
Last fall, USA TODAY published an article about the Duke men’s basketball team, in which coach Mike Krzyzewski compared then-Duke star Kyrie Irving to NBA All-Star Chris Paul.

When told of those comments last month in an interview with USA TODAY, Irving paused, then said,

“There’s only one Kyrie Irving.”

While a comparison to Paul may be bold, Irving’s performance through his first 13 games can draw comparisons not only to Paul, but to what LeBron James did as a rookie for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The New CP3?
Irving has backed up the comparisons to Paul in his rookie season. As a rookie in the 2005-06 season, Paul’s player efficiency rating was a 22.1, the second-highest among rookie guards in the 3-point era, beginning in 1979-80, trailing only Michael Jordan.

Irving’s pace is just a tick behind Paul’s, at a 21.8 through his first 13 games. But that would still be enough to put him third, ahead of the player currently in third place on the list, Magic Johnson.

Among all rookies with a minimum of 2,000 minutes played, Irving’s 21.8 PER would put him eighth in the 3-point era. Along with trailing Jordan and Paul, you can add David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan to the players Irving is trailing.

Who Needs LeBron?
Before Irving, the last time the Cavaliers had the first pick in the NBA draft, they took LeBron James, and we all know how that turned out.

The good news for Cleveland fans is that Irving’s performance as a rookie is on pace to best what James did in his first year in Cleveland, outdistancing James in scoring and assists per 36 minutes, as well as PER and Win Shares per 48 minutes.

In fact, his current 21.8 PER would place him 11th on the all-time Cavaliers list, not just among rookies, among players with at least 2,000 minutes played.

When you limit it to non-LeBron James seasons, Irving would jump to fifth, trailing only the best seasons for Brad Daugherty, Terrell Brandon and Mark Price.

Renaissance in Cleveland
It’s clear what kind of impact LeBron James’ departure had on the Cavaliers. From 66-16 and 61-21 in his last two seasons with the club, to 19-63 last season in Cleveland’s first year without him.

At 6-7 this season, Cleveland still has a long way to go to return to its previous glory, but the Cavaliers nearly have a third as many wins as they did all of last season.

After ranking 29th in both offensive and defensive efficiency last season, the Cavaliers rank in the top 20 in the league in both categories this season.

There’s also a noticeable improvement for Cleveland when Irving is on the floor, showing he’s one of the main components of its turnaround. Cleveland is averaging 101.5 points per 100 possessions while Irving is on the floor, 95.2 when he’s not.

LeBron disappearing in crunch time

June, 10, 2011
By ESPN Stats & Info
With 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists last night, LeBron James posted his seventh playoff triple-double, his second in a losing effort.

It was the first Finals triple-double for James, who is the fifth losing player with a triple-double in the Finals, joining a Hall-of-Fame list with Jason Kidd, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.

Despite playing 46 minutes and putting up a triple-double, James struggled in Game 5, particularly with Dwyane Wade on the court. In the 31 minutes he played with Wade, James scored nine points on 4-of-13 shooting. In 14 minutes without Wade, James hit 4-of-6 shots and had eight points.

Adding Chris Bosh to the mix made things worse for the Miami Heat. He played 26 minutes with both James and Wade on the court, and Miami had a points differential of -14 in that time. Without Wade, the Heat were outscored by a single point with James and Bosh on the floor. During the three minutes when James was the sole member of the trio in the game, Miami outscored Dallas by five points.

Regardless of who is on the floor in the Finals, James has struggled in the fourth quarter, scoring a total of 11 points. His average of 2.2 fourth-quarter points per game in the Finals is far below his average of 7.6 points in the first three rounds.

Despite playing all 24 minutes in the fourth quarter of Games 4 and 5, James had only two total points, making him Miami’s fifth-leading scorer in that span, trailing Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller, along with Wade and Bosh. James does have half of the team’s five assists in the last two fourth quarters.

Perhaps most startling of all is LeBron James’ crunch-time absence in a series that has seen all five games decided late. When the score has been within five points in the last five minutes, James has yet to score in the series, missing all seven shots. Those numbers contrast sharply with Dirk Nowitzki's 26 crunch-time points on 8-13 shooting, not to mention the 34-point difference in plus-minus.

Cavs leave Lakers reeling, win in regulation

February, 17, 2011
By ESPN Stats & Info
Beating the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday snapped yet another somewhat historic streak for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers snapped their NBA-record 26-game losing streak on Friday, but needed overtime to beat the Los Angeles Clippers.

Cleveland’s 104-99 win over the Lakers snapped a record 39-game streak without a win in regulation. Wednesday was the Cavaliers' first regulation win since beating the Memphis Grizzlies 92-86, on November 27. They had two wins in between, but both came in overtime -- over the New York Knicks and the Clippers.

One of the low points during the Cavaliers’ record losing streak was a 112-57 loss to the Lakers last month. By beating the Lakers on Wednesday, Cleveland became just the fourth team in the last 40 seasons to lose to an opponent by at least 55 points and then beat that opponent in their next meeting that season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Ramon Sessions
In that 55-point loss to the Lakers, Ramon Sessions scored 10 of the Cavaliers’ 57 points. On Wednesday, Sessions scored a season-high 32 points off the bench, the second-highest total of his career. That’s also the fourth-most points by a bench player this season, and the most this season against the Lakers.

In the loss, Pau Gasol scored 30 points and had 20 rebounds. He joins Kevin Love as the only players with a 30-20 game this season, and is the first Laker to go 30-20 since Shaquille O'Neal scored 36 points and grabbed 26 boards on March 21, 2004 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Gasol also went 14-14 from the free throw line, the first Laker other than Kobe Bryant to do that since Magic Johnson went 15-15 against the Miami Heat during the 1995-96 season.

Elsewhere in the NBA

Dwight Howard
• Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard was 12-for-15 from the floor against the Washington Wizards, the second time in as many games he’s shot at least 80 percent from the floor. On Sunday he was 13-of-16 (81.3 percent) against the Los Angeles Lakers.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two other players in the last 21 seasons have shot at least 80 percent from the floor in back-to-back games (minimum 15 FGA each game): David Robinson in 1997-98, and Mitch Richmond in 1990-91.

• Dwyane Wade continued his inside dominance against the Toronto Raptors. Eight of his 10 field goals Wednesday were within five feet of the basket.

In two games against Toronto, Wade has 17 field goals within five feet, significantly higher than his production in that area against other teams.

• Kevin Love’s double-double streak is at 42 straight games, two shy of the second-longest single-season streak since the merger (1976-77). Wednesday, Love had 18 points and 18 rebounds against the Clippers, the third time during the streak that he’s had matching point and rebound totals.

Also in that game, Blake Griffin did not have a double-double (29 points, 8 rebounds). In 13 of Griffin’s last 16 games he’s had a double-double, but two of the three games he did not were against the Timberwolves.

Too much Kobe dooms Lakers

December, 1, 2010
By ESPN Stats & Info
The Los Angeles Lakers might have to learn that a little less Kobe Bryant may go a long way this season.

On Tuesday, Bryant scored 29 points but it took him 25 shots to get there in a 98-96 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. During the Lakers current three-game losing streak, Bryant has attempted at least 20 shots in each game and has averaged 26.3 FGA per game.

Kobe Bryant
This season, the Lakers are 2-3 when Bryant attempts at least 25 shots in a game, compared to 11-2 when he attempts fewer than 25 shots.

Look even deeper and you will see that all five of the Lakers losses have come when Bryant has at least 20 shots. When Bryant attempts fewer than 20 shots, the Lakers are 7-0.

Tim Duncan recorded his first regular-season triple-double since March 14, 2003 as he had 15 points, 18 rebounds and 11 assists in the San Antonio Spurs 118-98 win over the Golden State Warriors. Duncan actually has more postseason triple-doubles (four) than in the regular season (three).

There were 239 triple-doubles in points, assists and rebounds in between Duncan's games. Among the many players who picked up at least one in that span were: Ryan Gomes, John Salmons and Bob Sura, who had two on consecutive days in April 2004.

• The Cleveland Cavaliers scored 87 points in their loss to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday. When the two teams last played in Cleveland on October 27, it was the Celtics who scored 87 points in the loss.

In the October matchup, J.J. Hickson led the Cavaliers with 21 points. On Tuesday, he had just one point on a free throw and was 0-for-4 shooting.

The Celtics outscored the Cavaliers 60-26 in the paint, the second time this season in which the Celtics scored at least 60 in the paint. The 26 by the Cavaliers in the paint were two points away from their season low in a November 2 loss against the Atlanta Hawks.

• Amare Stoudemire scored 35 points for a second straight game in the New York Knicks 111-100 win over the New Jersey Nets. The last Knicks player with 35 points in two straight games was Stephon Marbury -- Stoudemire’s former teammate with the Phoenix Suns -- in March 2007.

Brook Lopez scored 36 points for the Nets in the loss, one shy of his career high set on March 26, 2010 against the Pistons.

Prior to Lopez, the only Nets center in the last 25 seasons with at least 36 points in a game was Sam Bowie on March 20, 1991 when he had 38 against the Timberwolves.