INDEPENDENCE — The Cavaliers got a brief stay of execution Tuesday, but coach Mike Brown wants his team’s intensity to stay high regardless of the situation.
Cleveland’s miniscule playoff hopes remained alive when Atlanta lost at home to Detroit, but all it will take to eliminate the Cavs from postseason contention is a loss in any of their four remaining games or the Hawks winning one of their last five.
Brown, however, expects his players to maintain their desire and focus when they host the Pistons tonight at Quicken Loans Arena, and in their final three games as well.
“It’s easy. It’s our job,” Brown said at Cleveland Clinic Courts when asked what will keep his players going. “We get paid to perform every time we step on the floor, no matter what the situation is. I wouldn’t expect anything different.”
The Cavs (31-47) have dropped their last two games, but just as responsible for their current dire situation were winnable games they lost in November and December.
“We started out a little slower than I would have liked,” Brown said. “Some games early on that we dropped have come back to bite us in the behind.
“It always irritates you,” he added. “It really irritated me back then. Our guys have learned from experiences they’ve gone through.”
In what sounded like a recap of the season with four games left to play, Brown touched on a number of areas he felt were positives, including improving from last in the league in field goal percentage defense a season ago to 12th prior to Tuesday.
“I think we can keep improving in that area,” the coach said. “The guys have done a good job buying in on that side of the floor. We talked about that being a primary area of focus coming in, so you feel good about that.
“I give the guys credit for making such a big jump in a short amount of time, especially with a lot of young guys we have on the team,” he added. “Those guys did a nice job of understanding concepts and situations.”
The Cavs are 15-14 over their last 29 games, but they started the season a disappointing 16-33. At that point, Cleveland’s playoff hopes seemed a distant dream, but the club rallied and got within striking distance prior to losing in Atlanta on Friday and at home to Charlotte in overtime Saturday.
“Our consistency got better as the year went along,” Brown said. “Defensively, we got better as the year went along. I thought our ball movement got better as the year went along. I thought our pace got better as the year went along.”
What Brown likes most is the way his players have come together and played as a team the last few months, though the Cavs slipped a bit in their last two games.
“I truly believe our guys have continued to fight to get better,” Brown said. “From that standpoint, it’s gratifying.
“The neat thing about it is our ceiling is high,” he added. “Hopefully, we’ll continue to fight to get there.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Like him on Facebook and follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.