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If the Cavaliers offense is in trouble, they should chuck the ball out of bounds

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We’re being serious. Better than allowing the Warriors a fast break.

2017 NBA Finals - Game One
Seriously? Yup, seriously.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Here’s an obvious fact about the Golden State Warriors: They are a terror on the fast break. The combination of Kevin Durant coming at you and Stephen Curry spotting up for three is impossible to handle.

In Game 1, the Cavaliers handled it by ... letting Durant dunk:

Why? The alternative is this:

Three points is worth more than two, so you could argue the Cavaliers were actually playing the percentages correctly. They weren’t going to stop a Warriors fast break anyway, so may as well minimize the damage.

However, I have another solution. If the Cavaliers are in a situation where they are highly unlikely to score — say, a possession going nowhere with the shot clock running down — they should try something unconventional.

If the Cavaliers are in trouble, throw the ball as far out of bounds as you can.

Seriously. Just do this:

Or this. (Though maybe don’t hit a fan in the head).

I’m not joking. Let me explain why this is a smart strategy.

It prevents the Warriors from going on a fast break.

The Warriors’ halfcourt offense is great, but their transition offense is on another level. As I noted, the Warriors had 30 sequences in the first three quarters of Game 1 that came off a Cavaliers missed shot in the run of play or a live-ball turnover. They scored 40 points on those plays and left 12 more points on the table by missing uncontested layups or wide-open jumpers. The Cavaliers only got legitimate stops on five of these 30 plays.

Many of those 30 possessions were legitimate fast breaks. Others were delayed breaks in which the Cavaliers were caught in crossmatched situations with weak defenders on the Warriors’ best players. Kevin Love, for example, was caught on Durant and Curry at different times in Game 1. The Warriors may not have technically generated a “fast break” on these plays, but because the sequence was in the run of play, they could target Love and attack him:

On the other 47 dead-ball sequences, the Warriors scored 53 points. That’s still a good rate, but it’s not superlative. Had Cleveland picked up one or two more stops, that rate would fall considerably.

What’s easier? Stopping two more Warriors fast breaks, or stopping two more Warriors halfcourt possessions?

It means the Cavaliers’ horrible transition defense is involved less often.

Cleveland’s defense wasn’t great during the regular season, but it was especially bad whenever it changed ends. As I wrote yesterday:

The Cavaliers, on the other hand, are an awful transition defense team. During the regular season, they allowed the seventh-most transition chances and were dead last in transition scoring efficiency. They’ve improved slightly in the playoffs, but none of the three teams they played ranked in the top half of the league in creating fast break chances. The Warriors are a major step up in competition.

Obviously, the best antidote to horrible transition defense is to score more. The Cavaliers only dropped 89.2 points per 100 possessions in Game 1, a far cry from the 121 points per 100 possessions they had averaged in the playoffs to date.

But the Warriors’ defense is also really damn good. It’s simply unrealistic to expect the Cavaliers to light them up the same way they could light up the Raptors, Celtics, and Pacers. There will be situations where getting a bucket on the Warriors is simply impossible.

And in those situations, the best solution is to make the Warriors take the ball in from out of bounds anyway. At least that way, the Cavaliers won’t compound the error by putting themselves in an impossible situation they cannot stop.

So why purposely throw it out of bounds?

There are three ways to create a dead ball, and I believe that chucking it out of bounds is the most effective (and coolest) way to do so. Let me explain.

One way is to take a foul on the break. That accomplishes the goal of slowing down the game, but it also puts players in foul trouble. Worse, it can only be done before the team is in the penalty. Otherwise, you’re gift-wrapping the Warriors two points.

The other way is to hold the ball and voluntarily take a shot-clock violation. This is a good strategy in that it runs precious seconds off the clock. However, you also run the risk of the Warriors getting a steal and score in the time you try to hold the ball. That’s the worst-case scenario.

That leaves Option 3: Chuck the ball out of bounds. There is little downside to this approach. Your turnover stats will look worse, but those are vanity concerns, and the league record books only count regular-season stats anyway. Nobody picks up additional fouls, so you don’t need to worry about foul trouble to key players.

The only risk is that you’re punting the chance to score with difficult shots at the end of the shot clock. But I think that’s a risk worth taking.

Say you have a 10 percent chance of scoring with the shot clock down to five and the Warriors all over you. Based on the math of Game 1, the Warriors have an 83 percent chance of generating an easy look on the fast break. Would you take the 90 percent chance at failure if it leads to a 17 percent chance at success in the ensuing sequence? I wouldn’t. That’s an overly simplistic way of looking at the issue, but I suspect the odds won’t tilt far enough in the Cavaliers’ favor anyway.

So that is my advice to the Cavaliers in Game 2. Heed the words of Homer Simpson when faced with an adverse offensive situation. You tried your best to score, and you’re on the cusp of failing miserably.

In those situations, the lesson is to never try.

Still not convinced?

Listen to Brad Stevens:

I rest my case.