Inside the Cavs locker room: Still confident, or in denial?

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After dropping another game to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday night, the players inside the Cleveland Cavaliers locker room insisted that despite the 2-1 deficit, they’re confident in their team’s ability to win the series. Of course they’re going to say that. The real question is, do they actually believe it? After all, Cleveland is one shot away from being down 3-0 in the series, and after another game filled with a lot of LeBron and not a whole lot of anything else, the Cavaliers have to be doubting themselves, at least a little bit right? “I think we’re giving guys too much respect personally,” Cavs guard Mo Williams said after Game 3. “I think we’ve got to get back to what we do defensively on the basketball floor, because at this point – at this point of the game, these four teams, we’re here for a reason.” Williams was trying to sound like a guy who isn’t afraid going forward, but instead sounded more like a guy who was lying to himself. “We’re giving these guys too much respect,” he added again. “They are a good basketball team, but so are we.” If anything the Cavs haven’t given the Magic enough respect. After holding double digit leads in both Game 1 and Game 2, the Cavs could only come away with one victory on their home court, and that came via LeBron’s miracle jump shot. A quick look at the series stats show just how much respect the Cavs should be giving the Magic. Orlando is out-shooting Cleveland percentage-wise 49.1 percent to 44 percent through the first three games. In fact, the only players shooting above 50 percent from the field are LeBron James (53.1), Anderson Varejao (60 percent on just 15 shot attempts) and Ben Wallace (66 percent on three shot attempts). James, who is averaging 41.7 points per game, almost 43 percent of his team’s total scoring in the series, also chimed in during the post game about his confidence. “We’re very confident,” James said. “I know I am as an individual. I make sure our team is.” I’m not doubting LeBron’s confidence in himself, or his teammates confidence in him, but is LeBron confident that his teammates can help win this series? And are the rest of the Cavs actually confident in their individual abilities? Are they confident in Mike Brown’s coaching ability? Brown has shortened his bench during the series, which is something that most coaches do as the playoffs wear on. But valuable regular season role players like Wally Szczerbiak and Daniel Gibson have barely seen the floor. Both are regarded for their ability to knock down outside shots, and with Williams and Delonte West combining to shoot 11-for-38 (28 percent) so far in the series, don’t Szczerbiak and Gibson deserve more than a combined total of 20 minutes through three games? This is where a lack of adversity comes into play. Inside the Cavs locker room a few of the team’s role players could be heard openly opining about the team’s struggles during the series, and their lack of time on the floor. That’s not something you see from a team that believes in itself and its coaching staff. During the regular season playing time and shot attempts didn’t seem to matter, because the Cavs were having remarkable success. Cleveland had little or not injury problems during the regular season. Sure Ben Wallace was out, and Delonte West missed a few weeks, but it’s not like LeBron missed any time. They cruised through their division and pretty much the entire Eastern Conference, seemingly spending as much time choreographing pre-game rituals as they did scouting opponents. But this is the NBA playoffs, and these are the Eastern Conference Finals. Saying you’re better than your opponent doesn’t make you better them – only beating them on the court does.