Sound the alarm in Cleveland because there is a full-court panic in the city. The Cavaliers lost Game 2, lost home-court advantage and now their head coach has lost his cool.
The usually calm and collected Mike Brown signaled Def-Con 3 after his postgame news conference Monday night and sent a fiery message to his ballclub.
“We gotta decide that we’re gonna take the fight to them and take these games,” Brown told reporters after the Celtics dusted off his Cavaliers, 104-86, in Game 2 on a night when LeBron James accepted his second consecutive MVP award.
“Nothing is going to be given to us at all. Ain’t a goddamn thing going to be given to us at all in this series. We’ve gotta fight better than what we did tonight,” Brown continued. “Coming from behind in the first game, coming from behind in the second game. That’s not good enough. That’s not good enough for me or anybody in that locker room. If we expect to win this series, we’ve gotta bring more of a sense of urgency than what we brought tonight.
“Plain and simple, they kicked our behinds. Series is 1-1, we’re gonna see what we’re made of in Game 3.”
But Brown didn’t stop there.
He was unhappy with the lackadaisical start for the second game in a row, he didn’t like how his team got manhandled on the boards and he was extremely unhappy with the performance of Mo Williams.
“We got all our behinds kicked,” Brown said. “Every single one of us, starting with myself, did not fight tonight and it showed on the court. You gotta give the Celtics credit. They were a lot more physical than us. They got every single loose ball, every single 50-50 ball. They beat us to the punch. We gotta bring more fight to the table. We got to be tougher than what we were tonight.”
As for Williams, who finished with only four points on 1-for-9 shooting, Brown called out his starting point guard and said, “He’s gotta step up. It’s simple as that. It’s playoff time and he’s got to make the right plays for us and he’s gotta knock down shots. It’s gonna be tough for us to win this series if Mo plays the way he played tonight. Whether it’s defensively or offensively, he’s got to bring it.”
The Celtics took command of the game with a forceful third quarter that saw them outscore the Cavs, 31-12. The Cavaliers showed some life in the fourth quarter, but the lead – which reached as high as 24 – was too large to overcome.
“The thing I’m disappointed in is the way we let them manhandled us in that third quarter,” Brown said. “We can’t allow that to happen. If that’s gonna happen, everybody might as well foul out.”
When asked what contributed most to Cleveland’s lackluster performance, Brown said: “You have to give Boston credit. They came out and they took the game. They had 31 fouls and they said we’re not getting anything easy. KG had three fouls and Bron had a breakaway. He didn’t care if he picked up his fourth. He’s not giving up a layup.
“Tony Allen gets a steal, he dribbles the length of the floor but we have three defenders back and goes to the rim and lays it up. Stuff like that can’t happen.”
Though his head coach had smoke coming out his ears, James didn’t see a need to start pressing all the red buttons just because the Cavs lost one game in a best-of-seven series. “There’s no panic for me,” James said. “I may handle it differently than Mike.”
James added: “He must have given you a different look when he came up here and saw you guys. He doesn’t love you like he loves us, I guess.”
James is certainly using a patient approach to this playoff series, which is fine when your team can draw from past experience. But for these current Cavaliers, the only experience they can draw from is last year’s bitter disappointment.
LeBron may be the reigning MVP in the league, but Kobe Bryant is still the best closer. When the Jazz pushed the Lakers in the fourth quarter of Game 1 in L.A., Bryant pushed back and didn’t allow the Lakers to lose. When the Celtics pushed the Cavs in the third quarter of Game 2 in Cleveland, James decided to stay back and waited too long to take over.
Maybe LeBron should start listening to his head coach and have more of a sense of urgency. Otherwise, it could be another long and bitter offseason for the Cavaliers and the entire city of Cleveland.