SAN ANTONIO - If the Cavaliers want an extended stay in the NBA Finals, they will have to improve their approach to guarding Spurs guard Tony Parker.
Parker bewildered the Cavs' defense over and over in the Spurs' Game 1 win, driving into the lane at will for 27 points. Of his 12 baskets, 11 came in the paint.
The Cavs have no guard as quick as Parker; he is one of the fastest in the NBA. With a gimpy Larry Hughes opposite him, his advantages were magnified.
Parker also had seven assists for his best performance in a Finals game.
Hughes said there was confusion on defense when trying to contain Parker, who is among the league leaders in points in the paint. The Cavs' big men ran at Parker and he ran around them.
"I think we weren't really focused on what we needed to do, and that's not allowing Tony to turn the corner," Hughes said. "We wanted to sag back a little bit, but he's so good he takes the space up, so we have to look at some things to correct that."
After the game Cavs coach Mike Brown was asked if he would consider starting Daniel Gibson over Hughes at the point. Brown responded with a curt no. But he acknowledged something will have to change. Perhaps that means Gibson and Eric Snow will see the majority of minutes against Parker.
Hughes, Parker's main defender, might not be well enough equipped to continue his defensive assignment. Hughes' plantar fascia injury on his left foot has meant Parker is driving to his right, attacking him at his weakest point.
"That's something that you have to respect, because as a basketball player, and as a guy who wants to win all the time, I would do the same," Hughes said.
Hughes said his plantar fascia tear has improved to the point that he is no longer receiving Novocain injections in his heel before games. He said he will need more help on Parker, though, even if that means guarding someone else.
"I'm in this position now and I have to figure out the best way I can help the team," Hughes said. "He's a tough cover for one guy, so we have to do it with team defense."
The way teams usually defend Parker is to force him to shoot jump shots.
According to statistics Web site 82games.com, Parker's shooting percentage drops 20 percent on jumpers as opposed to shots inside the paint.
"He's a capable shooter, but we all know he wants to get to the paint, so we've got to live with one of the two because he's so fast and he's so good," Brown said. "We're going to have to live with him shooting some uncontested or some late contested shots, so we've got to do a better job of closing out to him."
Parker said if the Cavs are able to close off the paint to him early, he just needs to shoot with confidence.
"I start knocking down shots and then they have to come out," Parker said. "That's when you penetrate again, that's when you try to get back to the basket and get some stuff going for my teammates or for myself."
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