INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- By Saturday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers will have played six teams in the thick of the playoff race over the last two weeks, and in those games, they will have had to defend three of the NBA's most prolific offensive players, Miami's LeBron James, Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Oklahoma City all-star Kevin Durant.
All three of those players are in the race for the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award, but despite being six games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Cavaliers coach Mike Brown is excited about the challenge awaiting his team against the Thunder on Thursday night.
"We've had a lot of things happen to us throughout the course of the year," Brown said. "I've been in this league a long time, (and) 99 percent of the teams in our situation would've folded up shop right now and tried to coast through the rest of the season, but it matters to the guys in the locker room when we lose. They feel good about winning, and as long as we continue to fight and try to be consistent with it, then, I'm going to have the confidence in them, no matter who we play.
"I've got a lot of confidence in the guys in the locker room, and if we compete like we did last night (against Miami) and we shore up a few things in terms of managing the clock at the end of the game, we're going to give ourselves a chance to win. Those guys that are able to go right now, they've shown that they have an ability to fight."
Forward Alonzo Gee was one of those players who has displayed an ability to fight.
Inserted into the starting lineup for Tuesday's game against the Heat, Gee limited James to 12 points in the second half after he set a Quicken Loans Arena record with 25 points on 10-of-11 shooting, including five three-pointers, in the first quarter of play.
"Even after the game, I thought he did a nice job on LeBron," Brown said of Gee. "I said to him in front of the group before the film session started, 'I know you guys are probably going to look at me like I'm crazy, but 'Zo, you did a decent job on LeBron, a nice job on LeBron.'
"I know that sounds kind of funny because LeBron had 43 and shot 85 percent from the field, but a guy like that, you just make him work as best you can, and if you do that, then, you've done your job. You appreciate the effort that 'Zo gave, and he's going to have to bring it again, whether he starts or comes off the bench. KD's (Durant's) another guy that you can't really guard. You just hope he misses some shots and you try to make him work as hard as you can."
Over the next three days, the Cavaliers will host the Thunder and Houston Rockets.
The Thunder (49-18) are 1.5 games in back of the San Antonio Spurs for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. The Rockets (45-22) are currently sitting in the No. 4 spot in the Western Conference playoff race with 15 games to play.
"That's what the NBA's about, not only facing good individuals but great teams on a night-in, night-out basis," Brown said. "You want to take on those types of challenges because those types of guys and those types of teams hopefully make you better by watching and learning what they do and seeing how they approach the game and play the game, especially down the stretch and just by going up against that type of competition."