Poor Offense Leaves Cavs with Finals Debut to Forget
Posted Jun 8 2007 1:07AM
SAN ANTONIO, June 7 (AP) -- The Cleveland Cavaliers insist there is more to their offense than LeBron James.
So on a night when James couldn't shoot, Thursday would have been a good time for them to prove it.
It didn't happen until it was too late to matter
The Cavaliers wasted a decent defensive effort with a woeful offensive one in an 85-76 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the NBA finals.
James' 4-for-16 night was far from the only ugly mark in the Cavs' portion of the box score. Zydrunas Ilgauskas was 1-of-8, Larry Hughes was 1-for-5, and Cleveland was shooting under 40 percent deep into the game.
Add those numbers up, and it was an NBA finals debut to forget for the Cavaliers.
"I don't think any of us looked particularly good,'' Ilgauskas said. "Not a great game for us. You've got to give them credit. They took us out of our sets. They made us take tough shots. Even the layups we tried to get they contested. There were no easy layups.''
The Cavs put five players in double figures, but four of them - including James - didn't get there until the fourth quarter, when the game was essentially over. Cleveland didn't even reach the 70-point mark until the final 2 minutes.
"We did stand around a little bit. We've got to get more movement,'' reserve Donyell Marshall said. "We're all guilty of something offensively and defensively. But that's why it's a series. Go back and watch the game tape and see who makes the better adjustments.''
Cleveland is one of the NBA's best defensive teams, but coach Mike Brown is frequently criticized for being unable to build an offense that is creative enough to scare the league's top teams.
And it certainly wasn't good enough to get the job done against the Spurs, who held opponents to the fewest points per game in the regular season.
"I think we are comfortable running our offense against them and our defensive principles, but at the same time, their experience I think kind of overcame us in this first game,'' forward Drew Gooden said. "We'll make adjustments and we'll be all right.''
James can often make up for Cleveland's woes with his tremendous all-around talents, but the Spurs contained him by using defensive ace Bruce Bowen and sending a second defender when necessary.
James stresses he will always pass to the open teammate when he is doubled - but who would he have wanted to give it to for most of the game Thursday?
The Cavs scored only 15 points in the first quarter but stayed in it with their defense and trailed by only five early in the third quarter. But they managed only 14 points in that period - which has been their Achilles' heel throughout the postseason - and were all but out of it by the time the final quarter rolled around.
"We haven't put our finger on the third quarter yet,'' James said. "Once again it caught up with us again.''
Cleveland's offense works best when James' teammates make opponents pay for the double-teams by hitting from the perimeter. Marshall scored 18 points in the second-round clincher against New Jersey, and rookie Daniel Gibson scored a career-high 31 in the win that wrapped up the Eastern Conference finals against Detroit.
But the outside shots weren't falling Thursday night, with the Cavs hitting only two of 10 through the first three quarters.
In the days leading up to the game, the Cavs said they were loose heading into their first time on the NBA's biggest stage. So their sloppy performance - 12 turnovers, nine assists - probably can't be blamed on nerves.
They started to hit their shots in the final quarter, when they scored 27 points to make it respectable.
And they hope that gives them a boost heading into Game 2 on Sunday night.
"You have one off night, but the thing like this is it's not like the NCAA tournament, where you have one bad game and you're out,'' James said. "We've got to regroup and be ready for Game 2.''
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