July 30, 2014

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Cavaliers looking for more from Mo

INDEPENDENCE — Mo Williams is not concerned with his four-point, 1-of-9 shooting performance in the Cavaliers’ 104-86 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

He might be the only one.

Williams

Williams

In 21 career playoff games with the Cavaliers, Williams has shot .385 or less from the field on 11 occasions. In seven of those games, he’s scored 12 points or less.

“It’s not eating at me at all,” Williams said. “It’s one game. … I’ll bounce back.”

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, reeling Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena after his team matched the worst home playoff loss in franchise history, basically called Williams out after the game, saying his point guard has to play better at both ends of the floor when the series resumes Friday at 7 p.m. at TD Garden.

“That’s true,” an emotionless Williams said when asked about Brown’s comments.

Whether it will happen is another story.

While Williams has had some very good playoff games for the Cavaliers — his stretch of 10 straight Cleveland points and 14 overall in the third quarter sparked the team to a Game 1 win against Boston — he’s also had some very poor ones.

Here’s a rundown of his seven lowest-scoring games:

  • April 18, 2009, vs. Detroit: Williams had 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting from the field (.357) and 0-of-1 at the line while posting two rebounds and four assists in his first playoff game with the Cavaliers. He was 2-of-7 on 3-pointers.
  • April 24, 2009, at Detroit: Williams had two points on 1-of-11 shooting from the field (.091) and 0-of-1 at the line. He was 0-of-6 on 3-pointers, but did have four rebounds and seven assists. As they did in the first game of the series, the Cavaliers won Game 3.
  • May 9, 2009, at Atlanta: The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder had 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the field (.385) and was 1-of-6 on 3-pointers. He had two rebounds and three assists, but once again the Cavaliers won.
  • May 11, 2009, at Atlanta: Williams had 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field (.364), but did make 4-of-7 3-pointers. He also added four rebounds and five assists in a Cleveland victory.
  • April 19, 2010, vs. Chicago: Williams had 12 points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field (.250), including 0-of-2 from beyond the arc, but made all eight of his free throws while adding three rebounds and six assists in a Cavaliers victory.
  • April 27, 2010, vs. Chicago: The 27-year-old had seven points on 2-of-13 shooting from the field (.154), including 2-of-7 from beyond the arc. He had two rebounds and five assists in a Cleveland win.
  • May 3, 2010, vs. Boston: In his most recent game, Williams had four points on 1-of-9 shooting, including 0-of-4 from beyond the arc. He was 2-of-3 at the line with two rebounds and seven assists in an 18-point loss.

Williams also played poorly in three of Cleveland’s four losses to Orlando last season in the conference finals, going 6-of-19 from the field in Game 1, 5-of-16 in Game 3 and 5-of-15 in Game 4. In those games, he was a combined 5-of-21 on 3-point attempts and averaged 3.3 assists.

The seventh-year pro was heavily criticized for his performance in that series, and that scrutiny has intensified following his effort in Game 2 against the Celtics, when he once again also struggled to contain Boston point guard Rajon Rondo at the defensive end.

“We’ve got to find a way to get Mo free,” LeBron James said following the game.

The Celtics did a better job of staying at home on Williams in Game 2, preventing him from setting his feet and getting uncontested looks from beyond the arc.

When Williams did shoot threes, he was forced to release the ball quickly with a hand in his face. Most came in half-court sets with a Boston player running at him.

“They did a good job,” Williams said. “Going into Game 3, as long as I’m on their mind, I think I’m doing my job.”

Williams, however, took just five shots from inside the arc in Game 2 and was rarely aggressive, the exact trait that made him so dangerous the past two regular seasons.

Part of the problem is the Cavaliers now try to establish Shaquille O’Neal and Antawn Jamison early, which often leaves Williams as the fourth offensive option behind those two players and James.

That frequently leads to an even bigger problem, as Williams often spends the rest of the game floating around on the perimeter waiting for kick-out passes or ball swings, much like Anthony Parker, who is usually the last option in the offense when he’s on the floor.

Williams, as he’s shown so often in the regular season and on occasion in the postseason, is capable of doing much more.

The Alabama product doesn’t necessarily need to score 20 points in Game 3 — counting the playoffs, Cleveland is 49-10 over the past two years when he does — but the Cavaliers are a much more dangerous and effective team when their point guard is confident and involved in the offense.

That was evident in the third quarter of Game 1, when Williams dunked over 6-7 Boston small forward Paul Pierce — it was his first slam as a Cavalier — and then became extremely aggressive while also scoring Cleveland’s next eight points.

That sparked a 13-4 run that cut an 11-point deficit to two, with Cleveland later taking the lead when James scored at the third-period buzzer.

None of that happened in Game 2, but Williams vows to be better in Game 3.

“It’s just one game,” he said. “We’re fully aware of that. We didn’t play well and they played a good game. They made their adjustments. Now, we have to make ours.”

Elbow talk

A Cavaliers spokesperson said an injury update on James’ right elbow will likely be provided at practice today. When the Cavaliers announced last week that James had a strain and bruise, they said he would undergo another MRI this week. The Cavaliers were off Wednesday, so James likely had the procedure done then.

James also appeared Tuesday night on “ABC News Nightline,” where Chris Cuomo asked him how much he thinks about his impending free agency.

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“Not as much as everyone else thinks about it or talks about it. I think everyone else knows my future and I have no idea,” James said with a laugh.

James also seemed to agree with Cuomo’s assertion that he would not necessarily leave Cleveland if he led the team to a title this season, saying, “This is a great city. These fans are unbelievable. They’ve seen me grow from a young man at age 18 to a grown man now at 25, too. They’ve given me a lot. Right now, being in this position I am today, I’m solely geared on trying to win the NBA championship for this city. And when the future comes and I have to make the decision, I will.”

James, Varejao honored

James was a repeat first-team selection on the All-Defensive Team, while teammate Anderson Varejao made the second team.

Orlando’s Dwight Howard, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, led voting done by league coaches with 57 points, followed by Boston’s Rondo (50), James (45), the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (34) and Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace (30).

Thirteen-time selection Tim Duncan of San Antonio led the second team, which also included Miami’s Dwyane Wade, Oklahoma City’s Thabo Sefolosha and Atlanta’s Josh Smith.

Coaches were not allowed to vote for players on their own team.

Slow starts slow Cavs

The Cavaliers trailed by 11 points at halftime of Game 1 and were down 13 in the second period of Game 2, so they’ll be looking for a much better start Friday.

“We’ve got to go take Game 3,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere for Boston there. We’re going to have to step up and take on the challenge from the jump ball and not worry about Game 4 or 5. If we do and we play with the physicalness we’ve shown all year, we’ll have better results.”

Williams agreed, saying the Cavaliers need to play the whole game with the sense of urgency they displayed after falling behind by 25 points early in the fourth quarter of Game 2.

“We showed it when we were down,” he said. “We’ve got to somehow find that same will when the score is 0-0.”

The point guard added the Cavaliers aren’t going to Boston simply looking for a split in Games 3 and 4.

“We’re going to Boston and we want to win both,” he said. “That’s our mind frame.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.