WASHINGTON — Cavaliers coach Mike Brown borrowed a line Saturday from Tom Bennett, his coach at Mesa Community College: “One hiccup does not mean indigestion.”
The Cavaliers definitely had a hiccup in Game 3 of their best-of-seven series against the Washington Wizards. After all, their 108-72 loss Thursday was the worst in franchise playoff history.
If they don’t play a lot better in Game 4 today at 1 p.m. at the Verizon Center, that hiccup could become indigestion, with full-scale heartburn — not to mention heartbreak— a possibility down the road.
“We’re a loose team,” Brown said. “Getting hit in the jaw the way we did the other night might have woken them up a bit. No matter what you do or say, part of you subconsciously walks around town feeling pretty good about yourself after winning the first two. That can come back to haunt you a little bit.”
It certainly did in Game 3, as the Cavaliers lost for the 10th time in their last 13 road games. They not only lost, they lacked the defensive intensity they had in the first two games at Quicken Loans Arena and committed 23 turnovers, which was four more than they had in the first two games of the series combined.
Another performance like that today could have Brown reaching for the Alka-Seltzer.
“It’s not easy to put anything behind you when you lose in the playoffs,” he said. “It should hurt.
“We haven’t done a good job of focusing in at the defensive end of the floor (on the road) and we’ve turned the ball over. Those two areas are where we’ve got to do a better job in Game 4.”
Cleveland’s guard play was particularly atrocious. Delonte West and backup Daniel “Boobie” Gibson had four turnovers apiece while combining for just three assists. They also managed just nine points between them on 3-of-9 shooting, with Gibson really struggling to handle Washington’s physical play.
Throw in Wally Szczerbiak’s six-point, 3-of-9 shooting performance and it’s no wonder Cleveland went just 29-of-73 from the field (.397), including 2-of-16 on 3-pointers.
“That’s a big problem, no question,” Szczerbiak said. “We definitely need more guys making shots and putting the ball in the hole. That’s what it’s all about.”
While the Cavaliers were handling the ball like a hand grenade and throwing up bricks, the Wizards were capitalizing by scoring in transition. That’s why Washington ended up shooting .521 from the field (38-of-73) in Game 3 after hitting just .390 from the floor over the first two games.
That, in turn, allowed the Wizards to start playing free and easy. As a result, they also ended up making 8-of-19 from behind the arc in Game 3.
Still up 2-1 in the series, the Cavaliers don’t have to resort to holding their breath after just one hiccup.
They know LeBron James, who had 22 points and attempted just four free throws in Game 3, has a history of coming up big when they really need it. They also know today’s game will be televised nationally on ABC, which means James will probably be extra-motivated to make the Wizards eat some of their pre-series words.
“We knew we were going to take our lumps and bruises just like everybody else does in the playoffs,” Brown said. “We knew it was going to be tough to go undefeated.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Cleveland at Washington
WHAT: Game 4, Eastern Conference quarterfinals; Cavs lead series, 2-1
TIME: 1 p.m.
WHERE: Verizon Center
TV/RADIO: Channel 5; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM