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May 22, 2007

Flip Saunders


COACH SAUNDERS: Well, I think that one, all the guys have to make plays. We'll just try and make quicker decisions. I think we held onto the ball a little bit too much, didn't make quick decisions. When we did make quick decisions at the beginning of the third quarter, we were able to get some easy buckets. But we need to do that from the beginning, just set the tone a little bit more and try to be aggressive against their aggressive -- take their aggressiveness and try and make it a weakness.

Q. The last few minutes, just talk about the strategy there. You got a big rebound.
COACH SAUNDERS: Well, big rebound. He had a big block on LeBron, he had a goal tend, but he still went after it. Jason is our best defender in pick-and-rolls, and they were running some pick-and-rolls and we just thought we needed his aggressiveness. McDyess had the flu yesterday, so he was sick and under the weather. Jason has played well against Cleveland in our regular season games. We went in just thinking that we needed more defense at that time than offense because offensively we were out of sync and the only way we were going to win was going to be through our defense, which ended up turning up in the second half, rebounding better and doing some more positive things and at least finding a way to win down the stretch.

Q. That's a big step for a young guy in that spot, do you really feel good about him?
COACH SAUNDERS: Well, yeah. As we said, a lot of times, every time we've asked him to produce, he's done that. He's very direction oriented, he's always going to listen to instructions and follow through with game plans like you want.
Like I said, he's got very good aggressiveness and takes charge and does a lot of the little things. Sometimes when you get in the playoffs and you're playing against a great individual player like LeBron, you need to have somebody in there who will get you extra possessions, and that's what he can do.

Q. When you looked at the tape, was there a different breakdown --
COACH SAUNDERS: No, when you're guarding LeBron and their team, you're going to have to give something up sometimes, and unfortunately for us, Z made some -- he was shooting the ball. About three of his shots were contested shots, late contests, but we gave a lot more coverage to LeBron and tried to shade to him to try to take away him getting into a rhythm, and that's one of the things we gave up a little bit.
You always look every game to adjust a little bit and see if you can have the best of both worlds, try to take away LeBron's aggressiveness but still be in a position to be able to contest Z if you can.

Q. When you looked at the shot that LeBron had or at least the path, when you took a look at it on the tape, it looked like he had a good look at a dunk or a layup.
COACH SAUNDERS: I don't think he had a dunk. I think he could have shot the ball and had some type of a layup, but he made a basketball play. It's very difficult -- I hear a lot of the criticism they throw at him, and it reminds me of Minnesota because KG is the same way. KG would always make the right basketball play. If you're a basketball purist, he makes the right play. I always wanted him to be more aggressive and try to make the play for himself all the time, but as a coach, I don't think you can fault the play that he made because Donyell -- we had a breakdown in our -- we had a defensive breakdown, and we left Donyell, who we thought they were going to go to at that point, but if Donyell makes that shot, then everyone is saying today that LeBron made the right basketball play.
I don't think you can judge the play that a guy makes by whether the shot goes in or out. You've got to judge by whether you got the right shot, and they got the right shot, it just didn't go in.

Q. That's a better shot than an open path to the basket?
COACH SAUNDERS: He didn't have an open path.

Q. He had to step on Tayshaun.
COACH SAUNDERS: But Sheed was coming, too, and Sheed did have seven blocks, so I don't think that -- it wasn't where there was a whole lane to the basket. He had to step on Tay, but it wasn't where he had a dead layup for the score.

Q. From where you sit, what's going on with Chris right now?
COACH SAUNDERS: I'm not sitting.

Q. From where you stand. Is he pressing?
COACH SAUNDERS: Well, I mean, I think at times our whole team pressed a little bit last night. I think at times they pressed last night. That's part of playoff-type basketball. He played better as far as the third quarter. Last night he got taken out in foul trouble. He got two fouls early, got his third foul in the second half early, and when you're in foul trouble, it takes away a little bit of your aggression. So I think last night just had something to do with his getting in foul trouble because when we put him back in the third quarter he was pretty efficient for us in the beginning of the third.

Q. With everything that happened last night, did it seem like a strange game to you when you have Chauncey kind of quiet for most of the game and LeBron, and then of course the finish?
COACH SAUNDERS: Yeah, a little bit. But the first game in the playoffs are a lot like that. It's almost like a heavyweight title fight in boxing where you're just kind of feeling each other out, just see what everybody is going to do. As you progress into the game everyone settles down, even more so when you progress as far as into each series, longer into the series.
Chauncey has done that many times. I've seen that where he's kind of been a little bit passive, waiting to see what's going to happen and then looks to take advantage of things and adjusts in the fourth quarter. That's always kind of been his forte.

Q. The struggle with the trapping --
COACH SAUNDERS: Yeah, I was a little bit surprised. I think it was one of those things where he wanted to be aggressive to start the game, so he didn't make the quick decisions. He held onto the ball maybe one dribble too long. What happened at the beginning of the third quarter, he started making quick decisions and letting other people make plays. The best way to negate a trap is for your other players to make plays. Then all of a sudden we can't trap because they're worried about everybody else doing something. For us that's always our strength is that we have four other guys on the floor that can make plays.
I just think that Chauncey just needs to make quicker decisions, which he did in the third quarter, and then when other guys started making plays, Chris got some things to the basket, Sheed hit a couple jumpers off the pick-and-roll, so things started to open up a little bit more Chauncey later.

Q. So it's not something you're worried about going forward?
COACH SAUNDERS: No. He's seen a lot of those. You know, they did a good job. I think you've got to give them credit for taking away as far as his option. But like I said, the main thing, we're set for not one guy to dominate how we play, we're set for five guys to dictate how you're going to play.

Q. Are you going to be making some adjustments on defending Rip because it seemed like he was able to get pretty much what he wanted shot-wise?
COACH SAUNDERS: Well, sometimes, as I said, with LeBron and Z getting shots, when you take away one thing from the team, something else is open. So you have to decide what you want to take away and what you're going to give up, and if you're going to try to take away Chauncey and some of his areas, you're going to extend a lot of pressure on him, you might open up some things as far as for Rip.
So I guess if they defend things on Rip, then it might open up things for Chauncey or somebody else.

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