CLEVELAND (AP) - Forget an NBA title for now. The Cleveland Cavaliers have a much smaller goal entering Game 4 of the finals against the San Antonio Spurs.
"More than anything we just want to win one game," center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said Wednesday. "Obviously the chances are against us in a big way but we worked so hard for nine months to get to this point so we have to fight."
Cleveland is facing a 3-0 deficit against the San Antonio Spurs. No NBA club has won a series after dropping the first three games, forcing the Cavs to look elsewhere for belief.
"Red Sox-Yankees," said Ilgauskas. "I thought about it this morning."
True, but Boston had a powerful offense back in 2004. These Cavaliers have one of the worst that's ever played on the NBA's biggest stage.
A loss Thursday could leave Cleveland as the most inept offensive team ever in the finals. Baltimore managed only 376 points (94 per game) while getting swept by Milwaukee in 1971, and the Cavaliers have scored just 240 (80 ppg) through the first three games.
The Bullets shot 38.4 percent in that series, also a finals-low for a four-game series. Cleveland is hovering right at 40 percent, with superstar LeBron James hitting less than 37 percent of his shots.
The Cavs were competitive for the first time in the series Tuesday night in their 75-72 loss in Game 3. But even though Cleveland did plenty of things right, Ilgauskas and forward Drew Gooden both pointed out that the Spurs pulled out the victory without even playing their best.
So hopes of winning the first title by a Cleveland pro sports franchise since 1964 now look impossible. For now, the Cavs' biggest goal is to avoid becoming the first team to be swept in the finals since the Lakers beat New Jersey in 2002.
"We're all in right now," Gooden said. "We're playing our last hand right now. Our luck has to change or the season is over."
Like those Nets, the Cavs are playing for the championship for the first time. And they've quickly realized that trying to figure out a team like the Spurs is only part of what goes on once a team gets here.
"From my perspective I guess the stage is just so much bigger. I was caught off guard maybe by all the media attention," Ilgauskas said. "It takes a lot of your energy, you have to be focused and really stay on top of things. First time going through it, I think going as group we're learning it as we go.
"That's one thing about the playoffs. It's a roller coaster ride. You win against Detroit and you feel on top of the world and a week later you feel like you forgot how to play basketball because you're down 0-3."
Cleveland spent Wednesday trying to move past the painful final moments of Tuesday's loss. Coach Mike Brown apparently wanted a timeout with Cleveland down 72-70 in the last minute. But the players didn't see him and played on, with forward Anderson Varejao getting a pass from James and taking an ill-advised shot that missed badly.
James then seemed to take some contact as he was trying to set up for a potential tying 3-pointer, but no foul was called.
If the Cavs were going to keep their spirits up after those tough breaks, it would be up to James, their leader on and off the floor, to show that he wasn't letting them bother him.
"The biggest thing is understand with body language, not necessarily saying anything, but just with body language, show that, 'Hey, this thing is not over,"' Brown said. "Because it's not over. It's not over until somebody wins the fourth game.
"We - when I say we, it's myself and the rest of the guys, and especially LeBron included - have to understand it's one day, one game at a time. Nobody has come back from an 0-3 deficit like this. But like I was saying, there's always a first time for everything."
Between poor shooting and foul trouble, James has had a disappointing NBA finals debut. But he hasn't given up hope that there's still time to turn that around.