His hands are tied
Cavs coach can only do so much against superior foe
Posted: Thursday June 14, 2007 1:07PM; Updated: Thursday June 14, 2007 3:42PM
CLEVELAND -- Credit Mike Brown for trying.
Under fire after the first two games for sticking with a hobbled Larry Hughes and for being unable to free LeBron James from San Antonio's swarming defense, the Cavaliers' coach did everything short of installing cameras in the Spurs' locker room to shake up things in Game 3.
Inactive was Hughes, who shot 1-for-10 in the first two games of the series (veteran guard David Wesley replaced him on the roster). In was rookie Daniel Gibson, a rare Cavs bright spot early in the series. Gibson celebrated his return to the starting lineup by shooting ... 1-for-10.
Brown also sent multiple defenders at Tony Parker, who repeatedly invaded the paint in the opening two games when he averaged 28.5 points. Parker was relatively quiet with 17 points on 7-of-17 shooting in Game 3, but he also made a clutch three-pointer with a minute left -- just his fifth three of the playoffs.
"I always try to squeeze one or two," Parker said with a smile. "Coach Pop [Gregg Popovich] doesn't like me to shoot threes. But he told me next year I can go back and shoot threes like my first three years, so I decided to start a little bit in the playoffs. I know he was screaming when I took it. It's one of those kind of shots like, 'Nooooo,' but it was all right."
Bottom line: Parker made shots, as he has all series. Nothing more Brown could have done about that.
Brown tried to put James in different positions. Instead of trying to force-feed the pick-and-roll, Brown put James in the post more often. The Spurs, in turn, dared James to beat them from the perimeter.
The results were mixed: James score 25 points but shot just 9-for-23 from the floor. The crowd exhorted James to shoot every time it saw a wide gap between him and the nearest defender. But San Antonio knew the truth: James is a much more containable threat when he is shooting jump shots instead of using his 240-pound frame to barrel toward the rim.
The Cavs in general were putrid from the perimeter. Yes, San Antonio played great defense. But the three-point line, a decent weapon for Cleveland during the regular season when it shot 35 percent, became its Achilles' heel. Sixteen percent (3-for-19) in Game 3? Probably not something Brown factored in on one of his many sleepless nights spent scratching out a game plan.
And just for the record, Anderson Varajeo attempting a potential game-tying, spinning, acrobatic layup was not part of it either.
"He overshot it," James deadpanned.
It is not Brown's fault his team simply cannot defend Parker. It is not Brown's fault that Manu Ginobili, who struggled right up until it counted on Tuesday, is better than any two of his reserves combined. And it is certainly not Brown's fault that even with a superior talent like James, he has no one to match the savvy and transcendent big-game ability that Tim Duncan brings every night.
The sad truth is that the Spurs are just better (shocking, I know). They are deeper. They are faster. They are mentally tougher. There will be a coronation in Cleveland on Thursday night as a dynasty will officially be born. And there is nothing Mike Brown can do about it.