CLEVELAND - When they lost the first two games of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Celtics, much was made about how the Cavaliers had been there before in last year's conference finals against the Pistons.
Much was made about how that experience - when the Cavaliers rallied to win in six games - would serve them well.
And for a while, it seemed like it had, as the Cavaliers won Games 3 and 4 here.
But that was before Wednesday night's 96-89 setback in Game 5 in Boston left the Cavaliers on the brink of elimination tonight.
"You can't panic because this is when it gets fun," said Cavaliers point guard Delonte West. "This is when it gets fun. It's competition and the competition is on. This is when you see what your team is made of. You've got to be able to win when no one else says you're going to do it. We've got to embrace the situation and take it one game at a time."
The Cavaliers must hold serve at home to keep their season alive.
"We've just got to go out and play and try to win one game and force a Game 7," said LeBron James, who scored a game-high 35 points in Game 5. "We're very good at home and we have to approach it and be very good at home and continue to attack. We got to the line 41 times [Wednesday] night, which was a plus. But we've got to continue to attack, and help each other get open looks on the offensive end and keep defending like we've been defending."
After yesterday's film session and light workout, James was asked if there was anything from Game 5 he wished he could have back.
"Yeah, the end of the second quarter," he said, referring to the Celtics' 14-3 run that shaved Cleveland's 14-point lead to 3. "We didn't close the second quarter the right way, but, like I said [Wednesday] night, [Rajon] Rondo hit a few threes that really got them back into the game.
"At the start of the third quarter, they came out aggressively and we didn't match their intensity, and that really hurt us."
What has pained the Cavaliers most, though, is the loss of guard Daniel Gibson for the remainder of the series with a separated left shoulder. A second-year reserve, Gibson possessed the ability to spread the floor with his 3-point shooting, making things difficult for the Celtics defensively.
"It's kind of the tale of our season, another guy goes down," James said. "In the heat of a playoff series, he's very key to our team. It's not good seeing a guy who's that key to your team [dressed] in a suit."
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown was not certain how or if his bench would be affected by Gibson's absence, but indicated, "Everybody has to be ready for a minutes increase. Damon [Jones] has to be ready, Devin [Brown] has to be ready. We'll just see what happens based on matchups and how things play out."
Despite the loss of Gibson, the Cavaliers still figure to be a tough out.
"When we were down, 0-2, [against the Celtics], we didn't talk a whole lot about being down, 0-2, against Detroit," Mike Brown said. "I think I mentioned it once, maybe twice. What I harped on and mentioned more was that it's one day, one game, at a time. A series is not over until somebody wins four. And that's the thing I'm still going to focus on: It's one day, one game, at a time. Each game is its own separate deal and that's how we've got to look at it [tonight]."
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.