Final Dime: Spurs 102, Cavaliers 97
LeBron James led the Cavaliers with 27 points in Friday's loss.
D. Clarke Evans
The Argentine All-Star dropped 38 points on Cleveland at The Q in a Cavaliers’ victory earlier this month. On Friday, the Wine and Gold weren’t so lucky, as Ginobili scored 15 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter – sending the Cavaliers to their first loss in almost three weeks, 102-97, on Friday night in Texas.
San Antonio took the lead midway through that fourth quarter and extended their edge to nine with just 38 seconds to play. But the Cavaliers extended the game and J.J. Hickson and LeBron James managed to cut the Spurs’ lead to just three, 97-94, with 18.8 remaining.
The two clubs went back and forth in the closing seconds and LeBron’s three-pointer with 6.9 to play got Cleveland to within three again. But San Antonio broke Cleveland’s press and Malik Hairston put the affair away with an uncontested layup.
“We’re a team that’s never going to give up no matter how far we were down,” said the reigning MVP. “I’m proud of the way we stuck in the game no matter what the point difference was.”
LeBron led the Cavaliers with 27 points on 11-for-21 shooting, adding 10 assists, five boards and a pair of steals.
James was just 1-of-6 from long-distance and 4-of-7 at the line, which was emblematic of the Cavaliers’ shortcomings on Friday night. Cleveland shot just 30 percent from beyond the arc and struggled again from the stripe, shooting just 65 percent to San Antonio’s 82.
“This is a very tough place to play and you must have a good mentality towards so many things in San Antonio,” said Mike Brown. “San Antonio is also a very well executing team. You must play your game for 48 minutes in order to beat this team. This was a well played game by both teams and San Antonio deserved to win.”
Antawn Jamison followed up with 24 points, notching 18 of those in the second period where he went 6-for-9 from the floor, including 3-of-3 from three-point range. Jamison led the Cavaliers with nine boards.
Cleveland’s second-best rebounder – Anderson Varejao – logged just 13 minutes after leaving the game with 1:54 remaining in the first half with a sore left hamstring. His absence was glaring in the second half.
J.J. Hickson rounded out the double-figure scoring for the Cavaliers, turning in his second straight 20-point effort – 14 of which he scored in the second half. Overall, the high-flying sophomore was 9-of-16 from the field with eight boards.
The Cavaliers, who have just three road games remaining, return to The Q on Sunday afternoon against the Kings for what should be a raucous crowd to celebrate the return of Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
2. The Wine and Gold wrap up their road record against the West at 9-6 with just a single game against the opposing Conference remaining. With a win on Sunday, the Cavaliers can sweep nine Western teams for the second straight season.
3. Even with Friday’s loss, no team fares better against the Spurs during the regular season than the Wine and Gold. Including Friday night’s loss, the Cavaliers have a 7-2 mark against San Antonio since 2006.
4. This season, LeBron is easily the leader among players who have turned in games of at least 35 points, five boards and five assists with 18, including this past Wednesday’s performance in New Orleans. The next-best is Dwyane Wade with five.
5. Anderson Varejao, who leads the NBA with the highest plus/minus ratio off the bench at +437, missed the second half on Friday night with a sore left groin, finishing with four points and three boards.
6. With the Lakers getting throttled by Oklahoma City on Friday, the Cavaliers “magic number” to clinch the overall top spot is “6.” With Orlando winning, their number to take the East’s top spot is still “4.”
7. Since Tim Duncan joined the Spurs 13 seasons ago, they not only have the best winning percentage in pro basketball (711-311, .696), they have the best mark in all of pro sports. (The best in each include: Detroit Red Wings (.613), Denver Broncos (.604) and New York Yankees (.606)
8. The Cavaliers allow a league-low 26.2 ppg to opponent’s reserves – tops in the league. They restricted San Antonio’s second team to just 16 points. Unfortunately, Cleveland’s bench notched just 15.
9. With Z’s return, J.J. Hickson has said he wants to make it tough form Coach Brown to cut his minutes. And he’s doing just that. Over his last three games, he’s averaging 17.6 ppg and over his last five, he’s shooting 64 percent from the floor.
10. At 57-16 with just nine games to go, the Cavaliers are attempting to become the first team since Chicago did so in ‘95-96 and ‘96-97 to have the league’s best record in consecutive seasons.