Cavaliers coach Mike Brown was more emotional than usual after his team blew a double-figure halftime lead last month against the Detroit Pistons in Auburn Hills.
Call it disappointment. Call it anger. He didn’t mince words when criticizing his team or himself.
By the way, that’s the last time the Cavs lost.
”Our guys knew that they could have played better and we all stunk that night, including myself,” Brown said. ”When you let games like that slip away or you let people take something from you, it’s not a good feeling, especially without a true fight back.”
In the interim, with the exception of the game Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Cavs have shown intensity on the court and improved play from the bench while blowing out opponents.
”We played well against Detroit in the first half, then we got lackadaisical, thinking we were just going through the motions another game and win like we’d been winning, and we didn’t,” Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said. ”It was a real
good reality shot for all of us, I think.”
The Cavs arrived in Auburn Hills on an eight-game winning streak with victories against some of the league’s lower-tier teams and left humbled.
”We learned that we can’t just turn it on and off against the good teams,” Ilgauskas said.
”We learned from our mistakes in Detroit, but we’re going to continue to play the same way whether we won or lost that game,” LeBron James said. ”We’ve been playing the same intense basketball.”
Brown said it helps that the lesson came early in the season.
”Our guys, I think, are smart enough to understand they have a chance to be very good this year,” he said. ”Good teams are going to try to take that from them. Now they have to figure out how we can avoid that happening. How can we be the ones going in and taking things from people on their floor or on our floor.”
What they have taken in the past five games has come with apparent ease, winning games by an average of 19 points.
James knows the Cavs still have to establish themselves more.
”It’s only the first month of the season,” he said. ”We’ve got to continue to get better. We’ve got to continue to go out there and defend. We can’t have any slippage.”
How do they do maintain the intensity? It comes down to reality, Ilgauskas said.
”We had a good month, [but] we haven’t won anything. We haven’t won the division,” he said. ”We haven’t won the conference, we haven’t won anything. It’s really nothing to be proud of, to be honest with you. We played well, obviously. We all know that.
”But just as easy, if you can take it easy, it can be a three-, four-, five-game losing streak. We have bigger goals than that. We want to be playing in June, and we want to put ourselves in a position to have home court in the playoffs.”
Circus in town?
James has no intention of turning away from the media circus surrounding his ”imminent” free agency when the New York media show up to cover the Knicks. In games in New Jersey and New York City last week, much was made about comments that James made.
”I’m going to answer the questions whenever they come, but it’s not such a big deal to me,” he said. ”They’re going to come, and as soon as I say I’m not going to talk about it anymore, that’s when they’re really going to come, so I’m going to answer them and move on like I’ve been doing.”
A bonus could come tonight in playing the Knicks.
If the Cavs win, they will achieve their best home start in franchise history.