Champ's 2016 Playoff Blog: "Going Next Level"

James Jones, the Wine and Gold’s sharpshooting reserve has played in 130 postseason games over the course of his 12-year career – winning a pair of NBA titles among his five straight trips to the NBA Finals.

As the Cavaliers try to make it six straight appearances for both Jones – (and the man who called him “my favorite player of all-time,” LeBron James) – Cavs.com asked the savvy vet to share his thoughts throughout this season’s Playoff run …

In terms of the team’s mindset coming into Game 5, we’re good. We went on the road. We had two poor showings on the road. I don’t want to say completely poor showings, but the first halves were bad. We did some good things overall, but not enough.

Now we’re back home, where we’re going to be tested. We’re going to have to come out and compete and get out to a good start and try to change the trend – which has been slow starts and strong finishes.

This is where Playoff experience is big. But so is inexperience – where guys haven’t had to face these types of situations where they have to learn and they have to figure it out.

This team’s equipped with everything we need to do it, and it’s the progression of any veteran team – to continue building chemistry in the evolution of a champion.

I think our young guys are in a good place, mentally.

I think for those guys, it’s a chance for them to sit back, evaluate and realize that it’s not about the schematics and schemes. It’s really about consistency of effort and attention to detail. The human condition allows you to overlook that during the regular season. When you get to the Playoffs, you can’t because of every game’s value.

We knew the crowd would be good in Toronto. And Toronto’s a good team.

And you can talk about a team’s level when they’re at home with a great crowd that’s giving them energy. They’re running, they’re playing at a breakneck pace and they’re playing at an elevated level.

But usually, it’s about us. That’s how we look at it. Whether we go in there and play at an elevated level or not. And that’s where you see the gap. If you don’t meet that level – and we didn’t – by the time you look up, those guys have built a lead and then slowly come back down to Earth and become who they are for 48 minutes.

But Toronto did a great job of getting off to a great burst at the beginning of games that put us in a deficit that’s been too tough for us to climb out of.

We’ve gotten here in diametrically different ways. They’ve played every other day for a month; we’ve had long stretches between rounds.

If anything, we’ve had the opportunity and the chances to stay sharp – to get healed and healthy. And we are that. They’re a deep team, too, so it’s not an issue of them playing games every other day. But they are playing heavy minutes coming right off an NBA schedule.

Either way, it comes down to a 48-minute span in a 48-hour window – whether or not we’re going to give it everything we have every possession. And we haven’t been doing that lately.

As you get deeper and deeper into the Playoffs and closer to the Finals – and you haven’t done it before – you don’t realize that regardless of the outcome, the closer you get to the Finals, the intensity, the urgency ratchets up. And regardless of how you’re playing – whether you’re playing at a great pace and playing well, there’s still another level that you have to get to.

It’s about constant improvement.

James Jones

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For us, we’ve been playing at a really good pace, in a really good zone. And we’ve been trying to maintain that level, that zone, rather than pushing that level and that zone.

With our young guys, sometimes we’ll say: “You need to see the ‘bad tape.’”

If all your games are the same and you’re playing at a constant level, you never really know that you’re not getting to the next level. It’s only when you have a bump (or a drop) that we’ll say: ‘Hey, we’re teetering here and we have to get better’ or ‘Hey, we were good here, but we can get better. How do we chase that down again?’ We’re in that “chase” mode right now, we’re trying to chase that next level.

Sometimes it’s hard to find reality in a win.

We’re 10-2 in the Playoffs, we’re playing a very good team, but we’ve played well at home – which is where we want to be and it’s why we fought so hard to have homecourt advantage.

Their crowd was great up in Canada. When they’re trying to torment us, we take it as a sign of respect.

If nobody knows or cares who you are, if you’re not the team to beat, they’re not gonna bother. If they’re gonna pull out all the stops to beat you, it’s gonna push you to another level and reach higher heights.

At some point, we all need some external pressure to push us to another level. And so for our guys, who are exceptionally talented – they’re elite – they’re good enough to dominate their normal matchups on the court. When you add the other factors (which add to the opponent’s level) and other factors which challenge your ability to focus through a 48-minute game – it kind of just pressurizes them and desensitizes them to the external environment. And it helps them focus at critical moments.

And as you do that long enough, it starts to make all the adjustments, the reaction time, the process of this whole ‘win-or-go-home’ atmosphere enjoyable because you realize you have the skillset to do what very few people can do – to persevere through these adverse conditions and still come out on top when everything’s against you.

If a player tells you he’s not rattled by it or it doesn’t affect him, it’s untrue.

The only way to learn something is to learn it. You have to be exposed to it.

So it’s not that guys don’t feel the pressure or the stress. That’s the human condition. We all feel stress. It’s just that the guys who are able to process it can play through it.

Of course you’re rattled. We’re rattled. It’s human nature.

But what helps you process it is bouncing back. You have a bad play, you bounce back and have two good plays. You have a bad first quarter, you bounce back and have three good quarters. You have a bad game, you bounce back and have a great game.

That’s the process and it’s how you respond to it. And I have no doubt our guys are going to respond well because at the end of the day, they’re too competitive not to.

There’s only three ways we can respond to what happened this weekend in Canada: You can get worse. You can maintain the status quo. Or you can get better.

And getting better isn’t just about effort. It’s about focus. It’s about discipline. It’s about consistency – being able to trust your gameplan. And ultimately, those things determine the W and the value of the W.

We need to win and we need to keep getting better. That’s what we’re chasing.