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Archive for Monday, May 18, 2009

Cavaliers try to keep rust at bay

May 18, 2009

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— After the Cleveland Cavaliers practiced, LeBron James began shooting from behind the backboard at a basket about 40 feet away.

After missing on his initial attempts, his arcing shot swished cleanly and his teammates roared and applauded. James threw his arms in the air and walked to the locker room at Quicken Loans Arena.

While the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics were preparing to complete a grueling seven-game series Sunday night, James and the Cavaliers were enjoying the benefits of sweeping their way through to the Eastern Conference Finals.

James will be taking shots for real Wednesday night when the Cavs host Game 1 against the Magic.

The Cavaliers, who haven’t played since May 11 when they finished off Atlanta in the conference semifinals, are itching for some competition.

“If you all want to put on some uniforms and play with us, that’s would be OK,” center Ben Wallace joked with reporters.

“We’d rather play than practice,” he said. “You come in and beat up on your teammates every day. It’s tough.”

The Cavaliers are 8-0 in the playoffs, having swept Detroit in the first round.

Cleveland was off for eight days between the first and second round, and the layoff had no effect. The Cavaliers’ average margin of victory against the Pistons was 15.5 points. The average margin of victory against the Hawks was 18 points. All eight of Cleveland’s postseason wins have been by 10 points or more.

Cleveland coach Mike Brown knows his team must deal with the way the schedule falls.

“We’ll take whatever comes our way,” he said. “I don’t know if it benefits us or doesn’t. In order to try to be an NBA champion, you have to go through a lot of different scenarios.”

Brown says the practice routine has been similar to what the team did between the first two rounds. After practicing at their complex in nearby Independence for several days, the Cavaliers held Sunday’s practice at their home arena, where they haven’t played since May 7.

“We probably won’t have any more full contact days,” Brown said. “We’ll probably go about three-quarters speed (today and Tuesday).”

Still, practice can only do so much to keep a team sharp.

“Coming back to game speed is so much faster,” center Zydrunas Ilgauaskas said. “It’s so much faster than what we do in practice. It’s getting back to playing the game. That was the hardest thing for me against Atlanta.”

The layoff has helped players deal with injuries. Ilgauskas has chronic foot problems and suffered a chip fracture in his ankle during the season. Wallace sprained his knee and broke his leg in the second half of the season. Guard Mo Williams has been nursing elbow and shoulder injuries.

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