Final Dime: Spurs 109, Cavaliers 99
Alonzo Gee notched a season-high 18 points in Wednesday's loss at The Q.
David Liam Kyle
With Antawn Jamison on the shelf after surgery, the injury-plagued Cavaliers reshuffled their lineup once again – reinserting Alonzo Gee into the starting five and giving Samardo Samuels his first career start. Boobie Gibson was a late scratch after aggravating his left quad and even Luke Harangody got bit by the injury bug on Wednesday.
Add to that the fact that San Antonio rolled into Cleveland with the league’s best mark, and the results were as painfully predictable, as the Spurs pulled away from a scrappy Cavaliers club in the second half – handing them the 109-99 loss at The Q.
“This is a team you cannot make a whole lot of defensive mistakes (against), and you would love to be healthy playing against a team like this,” said Coach Byron Scott. “When you are as short-handed as we are, and our guys fought and played hard, but that team was just too good.”
Despite the difficult conditions, Samuels – going against his childhood idol, Tim Duncan – passed his first test with flying colors.
The bruising big man from Louisville led both squads with 23 points and 10 boards – going 10-for-18 from the floor with eight of his ten boards coming off the offensive glass.
“We’ve got to keep fighting, this year has been tough for us,” said Samuels. “I know every day that I come in, I’m going to work hard and I know my teammates are doing the same. That’s what I’m going to keep doing; nothing is going to change.”
Samuels was one of three rookies on the floor to close the game, which the young Cavaliers did in impression fashion – cutting San Antonio’s lead to just ten after trailing by as many as 25 points midway through the fourth period.
Alonzo Gee was almost as impressive – getting a start after coming off the bench the past three games and not playing at all in the previous eight. Gee went 6-for-13 from the floor for 18 points, adding seven boards, two assists and a steal in 38 minutes.
Ramon Sessions added 14 points, seven boards and a pair of steals. Sessions was 6-of-17 from the field and didn’t commit a single turnover in 32 minutes of action.
J.J. Hickson rounded out the Cavalier starters in double-figures with 12 points, adding seven boards and a blocked shot before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter.
Christian Eyenga resumed his role off the bench and notched 11 points off the bench – canning three straight three pointers as the Cavaliers carved into San Antonio’s lead late in Wednesday’s affair.
The Wine and Gold shot just 40 percent from the field. The always-efficient Spurs shot 53 percent from the floor and 83 percent from the stripe. They dominated the Cavaliers in the paint, 54-36, and dished out 28 assists to Cleveland’s 19.
The Cavaliers will travel to the Big Apple this weekend to face the new-look Knicks team they knocked off one week earlier at The Q.
2. The Cavaliers came into Wednesday night’s game as the team with the best regular season record (7-3) against the Spurs since 2006. Even with the loss, their third straight to San Antonio, the Cavaliers are 7-4 (.636) against them over that span. (Boston takes over the top spot at 6-3, .667.)
3. Since snapping their 26-game skid on Feb. 11, the Cavs offensive numbers have been up across the board. In that span, Cleveland is 3rd in scoring (109.2 ppg), 4th in 3-point percentage (.397), 6th in offensive rebounding (12.8 rpg) and 7th on the boards overall (44.2).
4. In Samardo Samuels first start of the season, the rookie doubled-up in 34 minutes of action. Samuels became the first Cavalier since Carlos Boozer on Nov. 22, 2002 to notch a double-double in his first start.
5. With Samuels making his first start – and without Antawn Jamison, who started 37 straight contests – Coach Byron Scott went with his 21st different starting lineup combination, 3rd most in the league. San Antonio has changed their starting five just three times this season, 2nd fewest in the NBA.
6. Once again, the Browns represented at The Q, with starting tailback Payton Hillis taking in the game from the baseline in front of Cleveland’s bench.
7. Alonzo Gee, who got his seventh start of the season with Cleveland, played five games with the Spurs earlier this season – going 1-for-3 from the floor in 20 total minutes.
8. Wednesday’s game marked the first appearance in a Cavaliers uniform for rookie, Luke Harangody. But after going 1-of-2 from the floor, the former Domer suffered a right hip pointer after just eight minutes of action.
9. Baron Davis continued to rest the swollen right knee that sidelined him in the game previous to being traded to Cleveland. Byron Scott is eyeing Friday – or Sunday at the latest – for his debut with the Wine and Gold.
10. On Wednesday night, the Cavaliers wrapped up their eight-game homestand – the longest of the season. The Cavaliers still have eight home games left in March, with a three-game West Coast trip, mid-month. The Wine and Gold have 11 home games and 11 road games remaining.
Joe Gabriele is the official beat writer for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Cavs.com. You can follow Joe and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsJoeG.