Cavs Say They’re Not as Bad as They Looked
Posted Jun 8 2007 5:51PM
SAN ANTONIO, June 8 (AP) -- Curious to see what LeBron James would do in his first NBA finals game, there were probably a number of people watching Game 1 who had never seen the Cleveland Cavaliers play.
And somewhere along the way, they must have had just one question.
"Why are we here?'' center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said Friday.
The easy answer is because they are the best team in the Eastern Conference. But they were clearly the second-best one on the floor Thursday night, trailing by 18 points in an 85-76 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
"We didn't play well, we really didn't,'' Ilgauskas said. "So we know we have a lot more in the tank than we showed, it's just a matter of us going in there and playing better.''
Ilgauskas scored the first NBA finals bucket in Cleveland history in the opening minutes, then missed his final seven shots. Point guard Larry Hughes was 1-for-5, and hobbled by plantar fasciitis, struggled to stay in front of counterpart Tony Parker on defense when they were matched up.
James was 4-of-16 and had more turnovers (six) than field goals or assists (four). The Cavaliers needed a closing flourish to reach 70 points and 40 percent shooting, not exactly numbers that inspire comparisons to the Phoenix Suns.
"I think that's probably the worst basketball we played this whole playoffs as far as getting in a rhythm offensively and defensively, and especially rebounding the basketball,'' forward Drew Gooden said. "So it wasn't LeBron James that had an off night. It was the Cavs as a whole. So we will bounce back.''
They have done it before.
The Cavs have thrown up a few clunkers already in this postseason, from the 83-72 Game 5 loss to New Jersey in the second round when they could have closed out the series at home, to the consecutive 76-point efforts while falling behind 2-0 to Detroit in the conference finals.
And yet they're still here, so they know how to move on after a pitiful performance.
"Teams that have been together for a while, that's what they're able to do,'' forward Donyell Marshall said. "They're able to put it behind them and come back and play well the next game. We've had a couple of bad games already where we were able to come back the next game. I think right now, we've got a good percentage of coming back after losses.''
But none were against a team as good as the Spurs, and Hughes' injury just makes matters worse. Cleveland's second-leading scorer during the regular season, he scored 18 points in both of the Cavs' regular-season victories over San Antonio.
He also was a first-team All-Defensive team pick two years ago after leading the league in steals, but his painful left foot kept him from showing either aspect of his game Thursday. He managed just two points in 23 minutes, and the Cavs were even forced to use James at times against Parker because Hughes couldn't keep up.
"It is tough that I'm not where I want to be as far as due to injury,'' Hughes said. "But I give the team all I got and see what happens. If we feel like we need a change to win the series, then we have to go that route. But for myself, I'll continue to come out and try to prepare myself to make it through and try to help the team.''
Despite all their struggles, the Cavs were down only five in the third quarter. And they started to solve the Spurs' defense in the fourth quarter, when they scored 27 points.
Plus, James doesn't figure to have such a horrendous game again. So perhaps the Cavs have plenty more to show Sunday night in Game 2.
"I don't plan to go out there and not shoot the ball well or not score,'' James said. "I do a great job of adjusting from game to game, and I think my teammates do the same.''
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