|Daniel Gibson exited Game 5 in pain, and won't play the rest of the series. (WINSLOW TOWNSON/Associated Press)|
CLEVELAND - Looking to stave off elimination tonight in Game 6 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Celtics, the Cavaliers yesterday were dealt a blow when they learned second-year guard Daniel Gibson will be out 1-2 weeks after suffering a separated left shoulder in Wednesday night's 96-89 loss at TD Banknorth Garden.
"That's a big loss for us," said guard Delonte West, who logged 43 minutes in Game 5 and may see his playing time increase tonight at Quicken Loans Arena. "He was a big key to what this team was trying to do. Just what he brings to the floor, he's not afraid to take the big shot. He's always a constant threat, spreading the floor out there."
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown described Gibson's injury, which he suffered early in the fourth quarter when he collided with a teammate while going after a loose ball, as a first-grade AC separation.
"What happened, initially, I tried to talk to him from the sidelines because it was their ball, so we didn't take a timeout. We wanted to see if he could shake it off," Brown said. "Sometimes when a guy gets hit, he just needs to shake it off, initially. Next dead ball, he said, 'No,' and that's when we made the sub for him."
With his arm dragging, Gibson departed with 10:59 remaining and was replaced by West. Reserve guards Damon Jones and Devin Brown have shot a combined 10 for 39 for 36 points and logged 105 minutes in 11 games this postseason.
So, who will be asked to step up?
"It could be either one of them," said Mike Brown, whose team watched film yesterday, then went through a light workout at Cleveland Clinic Courts. "Or I just may give extended minutes to the guys already playing. We'll have to figure that out as the game goes along."
Brown was hesitant to say he would use both players. "When you start playing both of them, now you're getting into six perimeter guys," he said. "It makes it harder for guys to get into a rhythm, so it may be hard to play both."
Asked about the Cavaliers being without Gibson, Celtics coach Doc Rivers, speaking to reporters via conference call yesterday, said he didn't expect much to change, offensively for the Cavaliers, or defensively for the Celtics.
"They are still going to put shooters on the floor," Rivers said. "The one thing they have done though, which is exactly the reason why we were going to go away from Sam [ Cassell Wednesday] night, was when Sam comes in, they bring Gibson in. And that's when they run the [isolation offensive] stuff for Gibson. That's a tough cover for Sam. If they don't have Gibson, that takes away that. But they're going to have shooters on the floor and they are going to surround LeBron [ James] with guys who can make plays. We still have to have the same defensive focus."
Point well takenRajon Rondo is just 22 years old and in his second year in the NBA. But during the third quarter Wednesday night, Rivers saw a look in Rondo's eyes that made him believe the point guard, who had 20 points, 13 assists, and 1 turnover, had figured out how the playoffs work.
"He's understanding the sense of urgency in every possession and how hard it is," Rivers said. "I think young guys don't understand that . . . I think Rondo is finding it out."
Rivers said that in Game 5 "there was a time where [Rondo] was bent over, grabbing his shorts. You can look at the intensity on his face and I was sitting there thinking that he is right now starting to feel and understand that this is, by far, the toughest thing he's ever done. But he's handling it very well and I'm very happy for him."
Although Rondo isn't known for his 3-point shooting, having entered the playoffs with just 11 treys in two regular seasons, he nailed back-to-back 3-pointers that fueled a 14-3 run in the second quarter of Game 5.
"Obviously, if they are going to leave him open, I want him to shoot it," Rivers said. "But what I don't want him to do is look for it. I want him to look to make plays. I thought the two threes he made, the ball found him behind the line. He was set, he was comfortable shooting it, and it was a good shot vs. the one in Game 4 where I could tell he was searching for a three because he just made one. Those are the shots we don't want. He's beginning to learn those things."
Replacement partsHad Rondo, who logged a career-playoff-high 42 minutes in Game 5, not played the entire second half, Rivers said he might have subbed in Eddie House for Rondo rather than Cassell, who is shooting 24.2 percent (8 for 33) in the series and was scoreless, though he played only five minutes, in Game 5. When asked if he will opt for House over Cassell first off the bench tonight, Rivers said, "When that stuff happens, you will always know the answer." . . . Rivers said the Celtics are healthy. "I try not to talk to [trainer] Eddie Lacerte," Rivers said, "and he doesn't talk to me. That means everybody is good. I didn't talk to Eddie today and he didn't talk to me, so that means [we're] 100 percent." . . . The road playoff woes of the Celtics are not isolated. Home teams are 20-1 in the second round. The lone team to win on the road? The Pistons, who won in Orlando, eventually closed out the Magic in six games, and now await the winner of the Celtics-Cavaliers series. Pistons coach Flip Saunders, speaking to reporters in Detroit following yesterday's practice, offered his take on why good road teams during the regular season sometimes struggle in the playoffs. "Part of it is matchups," he said. "And part of what happens when you lose one or two [road games], it becomes psychological. When things start going bad, it's Murphy's Law: Everything starts happening bad. Whenever doubt creeps in where you think you might lose, that's when you struggle." . . . Point guard Chauncey Billups practiced with the Pistons yesterday and is expected to be ready for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Saunders said Billups looked healthy enough that he could have played if there was a game. Billups missed the last two games of the series against the Magic with a strained right hamstring.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.