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“It was quiet," Hughes said of the atmosphere inside the locker room last night after San Antonio took a 1-0 series lead. “Quiet. We really wanted to win and we really wanted to make a statement in Game 1.”
The team, however, recovered quickly, understanding they only lost one game. San Antonio held home court, much as they should. The Cavs still have one more chance to steal homecourt advantage before heading back to the Q, where they’ve lost only one game this postseason.
“We were right back,” Hughes said. “We’re upbeat, joking around like we (were earlier in the season). Positive attitudes. This is a series. We're trying to get everybody to understand that – players, coaches, everybody. It's not going to be easy.”
Well, no, Mr. Hughes, it’s not, but no run to the title is ever going to be easy. During the course of 100-plus games, teams experience the extreme highs that come with a pile of wins and, also, the disappointing lows associated with losing streaks, grueling road trips and those moments of adversity facing any group of individuals trying to unite for a common goal. Which is why it’s important to carefully assemble your team of quality individuals – players and coaches – as the Spurs have over the past decade.
“Pop talks about having a sense of humor and humility,” Spurs Senior Vice President and General Manager R.C. Buford said of qualities the organization looks for in its players, “people who are willing to go to work and not skip any steps. And then, bringing character people in here that we enjoy working with and that when things go bad, at least, when you're having rough times, everyone knows they're going to work through it with people they enjoy being with.”
Well, that certainly describes San Antonio’s Michael Finley, who joked that his first-ever Finals experience could have gone a bit better.
“The way the game went for me,” Finley said, “I wished I would have missed (my first shot) and made the rest. But, yeah, it was a good feeling not to have an 0-fer going into my first Finals game, but overall it was just a good feeling. That shot went down and all the shots that I did miss, those felt good too. So, from my standpoint I feel good.”
While his shot wasn’t there, Finley was successful in areas that don’t necessarily translate to the boxscore – like just surviving the starting lineups, during which he had to walk out from behind a giant Larry O’Brien trophy.
“When I was a kid, I don't think they did that when I used to watch the Finals,” Finley said, admitting he was a bit nervous. “You come up there and whole world is watching and you don't want to trip. That was my main thing, don't trip.”
"(If I) don't trip and we win the game,” Finley said as he laughed off his off-night, “it means it was a great night.”
Speaking of great nights, rookie Daniel “Boobie” Gibson couldn’t have asked for a better performance in his first Finals game – well, except to come out with the win. So, it was little surprising to find him in a relatively cheerful mood early Friday, but what gives with veteran David Wesley, who registered yet another DNP-CD in Game 1 and is trying to keep his mind off the loss of his older brother in late April?
Again, refer to Buford’s above quote. The Cavs, in many respects, are cut from the same cloth as the Spurs, from GM Danny Ferry to head coach Mike Brown on down. Faced with rough times, Wesley is helped along by hanging tight with his teammates – and they with him.
So there Wesley was, in the media scrum surrounding Gibson. When a reporter from Cleveland’s FOX affiliate noticed Wesley acting the part of a professional journalist, he handed over his microphone to capture the unique player-on-player questioning and laughs that followed:
Wesley, joking with Gibson: “You looked really nervous out there. How were you able to calm your nerves?”
“I wouldn't say I was nervous,” Gibson replied, looking more nervous now to be staring down his teammate than he was shooting over Spurs defenders last night. “I was out there enjoying it and just having fun.”
“So the shaking I saw in your knees,” Wesley followed, “it was nothing and you're fine?”
“Yeah, I'm fine.”
“You shot the heck out of the ball,” Wesley, himself a 41 percent three-point shooter in 55 career playoffs games, offered as a compliment. “You're a hell of a player.”
“Thank you,” Gibson giggled before returning to more serious questioning.
Wesley, meanwhile, was ready to continue in his newfound profession, heading over to get in a word with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who was looking to his left and speaking to the crowd of journalists. As if the cameras, microphones and tape recorders aren’t invasive enough, Wesley playfully got his teammate’s attention when he jabbed the microphone a couple times into his right cheek and chin.
“If you got a haircut for Game 2,” Wesley asked when finally picking his opening in the questioning, “do you think you would score easier?”
“I think I would be faster than in Game 1,” Big Z said with a laugh.
Another reporter then asked if a haircut was in order today or tomorrow.
“I don't think I can trust the San Antonio haircut salons,” he replied. “I might end up with a Mohawk or something, so I'll wait until I get back to Cleveland.”