Final Dime: Cavaliers 97, Spurs 95
J.J. Hickson throws down two of his 12 points in Monday night's win.
The shorthanded Cavaliers – already without the services of Shaquille O’Neal – rested James for the second straight game. The Spurs took advantage of the missing MVP, as Cleveland trailed through most of the second half. But J.J. Hickson’s free throws with 1:05 to play gave the Cavaliers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish – holding off Manu Ginobili and the Spurs for the 97-95 win.
Ginobili was virtually unstoppable on Monday night, and the man who dropped 46 on Cleveland at The Q two years ago, was back to his old tricks – going off for 38 points.
The game couldn’t end fast enough for the Cavaliers, as the Argentine star nearly tied the game (barely toeing the three-point stripe) with 14 seconds to play and canning a long three-pointer at the buzzer. Ginobili finished 7-for-11 from beyond the arc with seven boards, five assists and a pair of steals.
“I thought that offensively we had nice balance,” said Coach Mike Brown. “Nobody really had a huge, huge game, but the balance was there.”
The Cavaliers boasted six players in double-figures, led by Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison. Williams went 7-for-16 from the floor, nearly triple-doubling with eight boards and eight assists.
“I thought collectively we made plays down the stretch,” said Mo. “Guys came through and made plays.”
Jamison did all his damage in the first three quarters after leaving the game with 8:03 remaining in the third with stiffness in his left knee.
“I had (the stiffness) a month into the season, but was able to play through it,” said Jamison. “It just took treatment, ice, steam and things of that nature. It’s not anything to really be worried about. It just really tightened up on me in the third quarter and I wasn’t able to get the range of motion.”
Cleveland got excellent production off the bench, especially from Delonte West, who had another strong outing – notching 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of free throws after a huge steal with under a minute to play.
Jawad Williams, getting his second straight start in place of LeBron, notched 11 of his 13 points in the second half. J.J. Hickson added a dozen points and seven boards and Anderson Varejao flirted with a double-double, adding 11 points and nine boards.
The Spurs were without their own star – guard Tony Parker, who broke his hand in the previous game and is out for six weeks. Without the 2007 Finals MVP, second-year man George Hill filled in admirably with 23 points.
Cleveland shot 47 percent from the floor and reversed a recent trend by shooting 79 percent at the line – drilling all eight free throws attempted in the fourth quarter. San Antonio shot 34 percent from long-distance, taking twice as many attempts (29-14) as the Cavaliers.
The win is especially satisfying because of the three extra days of rest for LeBron before the Wine and Gold travel to the City of Brotherly Love for a Friday night affair.
2. With Monday’s win, the Cavaliers become the first team in the NBA this season to win 50 games. In Mike Brown’s five years with the Wine and Gold, he’s won 50-or-more games in every season but one.
3. The Cavaliers are now 4-1 against the Spurs since the 2007 NBA Finals, including the last three straight. Cleveland wraps up its Western Conference road schedule in San Antonio on March 26.
4. The Cavaliers are now 13-1 against Western Conference clubs at The Q; 27-2 at home against the West since 2008-09.
5. Daniel Gibson returned from a three-game absence following the birth of his first child. Boobie saw 13 minutes of action in his return, going 1-for-3 from the floor for three points and a pair of rebounds.
6. LeBron missed his second straight game on Monday night. Over the course of his career, the Cavaliers are now 10-12 when he doesn’t play.
7. The Cavaliers got nicked around on Monday night. Anthony Parker left the game with 4:21 in the first with a “reduced” finger and returned to action after. Antawn Jamison left with 8:02 in the third – suffering from stiffness in his left knee and didn’t return.
8. Antawn Jamison has been great for the Cavaliers since his arrival at the trade deadline – averaging 17.0 ppg with the Wine and Gold 7-1 with him in the starting lineup. His only snafu so far is from the stripe. Since joining Cleveland on Feb. 19, he’s shooting .483 from the floor and .474 from the line.
9. Coming into the contest with Cleveland, the Spurs bench had outscored their opponents in 16 straight games before being topped, 30-17, on Monday. It’s no surprise. The Cavaliers are the league’s stingiest team against an opponent’s reserves, allowing just 26.1 points per game.
10. Cleveland has the best home record in the NBA at 28-4 (.875). The Cavs have won 26 of their last 28 games at The Q and are 67-6 at home since the start of last season – an NBA best.