CAVS NOTEBOOK: Rookie guard finds his stride
One of the Cavaliers’ few bright spots in Game 1 of the NBA Finals was the team’s star in the series-clinching win over Detroit.
Daniel Gibson scored a team-high 16 points for the Cavs in Thursday’s 85-76 loss to the Spurs. He shot 7-of-9 from the field, handed out four assists and recorded four steals in just less than 28 minutes.
It was not reminiscent of the way Gibson carried his team in the fourth quarter of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. But on the league’s biggest stage, the Cavs could not have asked more for more from the 6-foot-2 rookie guard.
Gibson hit his first shot — a 3-pointer — and was well on his way to a big night.
“Once you see the ball go through the hoop, it gives you confidence and a relaxing feeling that you’re capable of playing and making shots in this atmosphere,” Gibson said.
Gibson has the quickness that can help the Cavs slow penetration from Spurs point guard Tony Parker. Cavs starting point guard Larry Hughes struggled in Game 1 and is not 100 percent.
Head Coach Mike Brown was adamant that a lineup change would not take place. However, Gibson will have a chance to make an impact throughout the Finals.
“He’ll get some playing time,” Brown said. “He played well on both ends of the floor, and, obviously, he did shoot the ball well. He’ll be out on the floor for us.”
Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored just 2 points on 1-of-8 shooting in Game 1. The 7-foot-3 center thought he had some good looks, but the shots would not fall. “More than anything, I wasn’t able to get into the flow at any point in the game,” Ilgauskas said. “I really didn’t feel like I was in the game at any point.” The 2 points matched a season low for Ilgauskas. “It’s tough,” he said. “You’re a big guy, you keep missing around the basket and you’re not in a rhythm. It happens, but I need to be better.”
TIP-OFF TIME YET?
The Cavs were eager to get Game 1 started. But time seemed to drag on before tip-off. “They kept saying, you’ve got three more minutes, you’ve got two more minutes,” Cavs forward Drew Gooden said. “Man, next thing I know we were back in layup lines warming up. It takes so long to start these games.”
ANOTHER CAVS CONNECTION
The relationship between Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich and Cavs assistant coach Hank Egan goes back almost 40 years. Popovich played at the Air Force Academy while Egan was an assistant there and was on Egan’s staff when he became Air Force’s head coach. Egan also was an assistant under Popovich in San Antonio. “He taught me basketball as a player,” Popovich said. “He disciplined me, he stroked me and kicked me in the butt. Then we coached together for six years and another seven or eight years here in San Antonio. He’s meant the world to me as far as basketball and a personal relationship.” Popovich finds it difficult coaching against Egan in the Finals. “It’s a pain in the neck because you’re at each other’s throats trying to win,” he said. “But at the same time, you know what your relationship is.”
Reach Canton Repository sports writer Mike Popovich at (330) 580-8341 or e-mail: email@example.com