Philadelphia 76ers Stat Monkey Brief: Sixers/Cavs (11/18/12)
When squaring off with the Cleveland Cavaliers these days, teams should only have one thought on their mind: How are we going to slow down Kyrie Irving? The second-year point guard has taken a big leap forward and has established himself as one of, if not the best scorer at his position in the league.
Irving is shooting nearly 48 percent from the field this season despite only about 42 percent of his shots coming in the paint. So Irving must be knocking down jumpers at a ridiculous rate to get that shooting percentage up so high, right? Yes and no. While Irving is hitting 43 percent of his above-the-break three-point attempts (he’s only tried four from the corners), that’s right around his percentage from last year. What he has done is up the shots he’s making around the rim. after making 59 percent of his shots in the restricted area last season, Irving has moved that number up to 62 percent this year. That compares favorably to contemporaries like Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo.
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Without a certain bowling-obsessed, Afro-rocking 7-footer, the Sixers’ big men have held their own on the defensive end of the floor. Spencer Hawes has a defensive rating (the estimated number of points allowed per 100 possessions) of 97, while Kwame Brown’s rating is a respectable 101. Hawes sits among the top-20 in the league in block percentage, swatting away nearly 5 percent of opponent’s two-point tries while he’s on the floor. Being able to deter Irving from taking the ball into the paint, or at least making it tough for him to get shots off, while be a huge boon to the Sixers’ chances. Additionally, Irving is prone to turning the ball over, partly because he handles the ball for his team so much; he has a usage rate over 30. The Sixers should try to take advantage of that; they currently rank 6th in the league at forcing turnovers. Jrue Holiday, Irving’s counterpart, has a reputation as an aggressive on-ball defender, while swingmen Dorrell Wright and Jason Richardson both have impressive steal percentages. If they can put those two elements together, they should have an easier time shutting down the Cavs’ biggest offensive weapon.