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Cavaliers are staying single-minded

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / May 18, 2008

Throughout this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown has resisted the urge to take the long view, especially when his team faced an 0-2 deficit.

Instead, Brown opted to focus on the game at hand, saying at every turn, "Each game is its own separate entity."

Now that the Cavaliers have forced a Game 7 today at TD Banknorth Garden, Brown insists his approach remains unchanged.

"It makes it a one-game series, having a Game 7," said Brown, whose Cavaliers staved off elimination with a 74-69 triumph in Game 6 Friday night in Cleveland.

"But we have to make sure we continue to do what helped us get to a Game 7, which is defend, move the ball from one side of the floor to the other, take care of the basketball, and try to get some offensive rebounds, because we know it's going to be an ugly game.

"If we do the little things and not get too far ahead of ourselves and stay poised - one day, one game, one play at a time - then we'll have a chance."

While that approach has served them well, it remains to be seen whether it will be a blueprint for success in Game 7. The Cavaliers have limited experience in seventh games, with a 2-1 record all-time. Only five players on the current roster - LeBron James, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao, Sasha Pavlovic, and Damon Jones (Eric Snow is inactive) - played on the last Cleveland team to make it to a Game 7, when the Cavaliers lost to Detroit, 79-61, in the Eastern semifinals May 21, 2006.

"We just have to go out there and play basketball," said Cavaliers forward Ben Wallace, who was a member of that Pistons team that defeated Cleveland in 2006. "We don't have anything to lose.

"They are at home and they are expected to win. We have to go there and take care of business early. We can't afford to come out lackadaisical. We have to go out and be the aggressor from start to finish and force them to play on their heels."

Brown owns an 0-1 record as a head coach in Game 7s. He was in his second year as the Cavaliers' head man when the Pistons prevailed in 2006. As an assistant to then-Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, Brown was on the bench for Indiana's 97-70 rout of the Celtics in Game 7 of an Eastern Conference first-round series May 7, 2005, in Boston.

Asked his recollections of his first Game 7 as a head coach, Brown said, "The reality of it is, I can't remember." Or was it that the coach was suffering from selective amnesia?

"Somebody told me that when I was in Indiana, I think we won a Game 7 my second year there, and it was against Boston," Brown suddenly recalled. "We finished sixth and they finished third and it ended up going to a seventh game and we ended up winning the seventh game in Boston.

"Now, I don't want to sit here and say, 'Yeah, that was true,' because I don't want to take the time to look it up.

"I know I've been involved in Game 7s, but I just don't want to think about 'em. This is a different team, and I'm in a different situation in terms of coaching, so on and so forth."

Of his single-minded approach, Brown said, "I think it helps, like in a Game 6. When you're down, because you don't want to look past the sixth game and start looking at a Game 7 and then realize that you've got your work cut out for you in Game 6. Same thing as if you're down, 0-2.

"If you just look at it like one game, one day at a time, then it's not as overwhelming. If you're down against a great team, and you're down, 0-2, to 'em, and you're thinking, 'Wow, we've got to win four of the next five,' well, that's pretty big when you start looking at it like that.

"But if you keep looking at these games as separate entities, then you say, 'Hey, we got to go get the next game.' Now it's about a one-game series and whoever wins it, wins the series."

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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