CLEVELAND -- As he walked up and down the sideline during Saturday's 107-97 loss to the New York Knicks at Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown was stunned by what he saw.
In his opinion, the Cavaliers did not play like a team in the hunt for the eighth and final playoff spot in an Eastern Conference that has only five teams with winning records.
"The first 24 minutes of the ball game, we didn't do a good job in the competing, sense-of-urgency, effort part," Brown said. "I thought they got a ton of offensive rebounds and 50-50 balls that we could've gotten to. I thought our defense wasn't good in the first half. The floor balance was not good, and in transition, they were able to get out. They had numbers, it seemed, every time we looked up the floor.
"We're fighting for our lives. This team was a game behind us and I just felt like we didn't come out with the right mindset to compete with this team for that eighth spot."
The Knicks (24-40) outrebounded the Cavaliers (24-40), 49-37, and held a 13-9 edge on the offensive glass, which resulted in 16 second-chance points for New York.
While the Knicks enjoyed a four-point lead, 23-19, after one quarter of play, they caught fire from the field, especially beyond the arc, in the second stanza. New York made 12 of its 18 shots, including five of seven from three-point range.
Forward Carmelo Anthony led New York's offensive onslaught by making five of his attempts, including both three-pointers, in only seven minutes on the floor during the second quarter.
"I just was disappointed in the way we played, especially defensively, in terms of our physicality and sense of urgency in understanding what we need to do on that end of the floor," Brown said. "There could be a lot of reasons for it in guys' minds, but I don't see how any of those reasons are valid based on us fighting for our lives against this particular team, the Atlanta Hawks and even the Detroit Pistons, who are right there too."
With Saturday's loss to the Knicks, the Cavaliers are now on a four-game slide as they set out on a road trip against the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers, all of whom would qualify for the playoffs if the regular season ended today.
"It's a product of the guys possibly never being in this position before and understanding the importance of every game when we step on the floor and not just part of the game, but from start to finish," Brown said. "There was a period where we were doing that very well. Tonight, we did not do a good job of it."
Cavaliers forward Anderson Varejao returned to the lineup after battling through back issues and missing the last 12 games. In 9:20 on the floor, Varejao made both of his field-goal attempts and tallied three rebounds.
"I thought Andy was good," Brown said. "It was great for him to get out there, get a sweat going and mix it up a little bit. Obviously, his minutes were limited, so the short amount of time that he was out there, I thought that he was pretty good."