Ginobili's big night leads Spurs in comeback over Cavs
SAN ANTONIO (NBA.com exclusive) -- It appears the Spurs soon will clinch a playoff spot, since they now are more than five games ahead of the ninth-seeded team in the West.
But if the Spurs are going to pick themselves up from a challenging season and at least make some noise in the postseason, this five-game stretch against the league's elite that now is grinding to an end could determine much of their future.
With one more playoff-bound team to go in the five-game set, San Antonio now is 2-2. Behind a 30-point game from Manu Ginobili and effective play in limited minutes from Tim Duncan, the Spurs defeated league-leading Cleveland 102-97 on Friday night at AT&T Center. It snapped the Cavaliers' eight-game winning streak.
"Even though we haven't had a great season, we're not that far away," Ginobili said. "If we can get a little better in every game we will be in good shape. I am proud of what we have done today."
Ginobili, who last month equaled a season high with 38 against Cleveland, hit 10-for-19 in Friday's victory, including 3-for-5 from 3-point territory and 7-for-8 free throws. He added six assists. He's averaged 23 points since Tony Parker broke his hand and has missed every game since March 6.
"Most of the time we played our defensive principles and either Manu made a play for himself or made a play for someone else with an open look," said the Cavaliers' LeBron James.
Duncan, who played almost 27 minutes, went 6-for-11 for 16 points and five assists. In the fourth quarter, he played only the final 2:32 -- missing the 16-6 run over a five-minute stretch that gave San Antonio a 87-82 lead with five minutes to go.
Ginobili scored 12 during that run, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Even though San Antonio's tough stretch of games is almost complete, the heat still is on. San Antonio (43-28) travels to Boston to play the Celtics on Sunday before a brief return to more docile competition the following night at New Jersey.
Then the tough games return all over again with home games against Houston and Orlando before a West Coast swing that includes the Lakers and Phoenix.
The Cavaliers (57-16) lead Orlando by six games in the East. Antawn Jamison scored 18 points in the second and propelled Cleveland to a lead of as much as seven early in the second half.
But Jamison ended with 24 while James led the Cavs with 27 and 10 assists.
Yet James and Jamison were duds in the game's most crucial stat. Combined they went 7-for-14 from the free-throw line, while the rest of the Cavs were 8-for-9. The Spurs hit 22-for-27 from the line.
Given that both Portland and Oklahoma City have just knocked off a pair of the higher seeds in the West (the Trail Blazers beat Dallas on Thursday and OKC beat the Lakers at home by 16 on Friday), it was key the Spurs keep their noses above water against their own tough opponent.
The Spurs still have the seventh-best record in the West by percentage points -- and one game in the loss column -- over Portland and are a game back of the Thunder for the sixth seed. The Spurs won the season series with OKC and have the tiebreaker.
Certainly they looked a lot different against Cleveland than they did Wednesday at home against L.A. in which they blew a 10-point lead after the first half.
But in the second half against the Cavs, San Antonio hit 50 percent from the floor and limited Cleveland to 1-for-8 from the 3-point line.
That's when Spurs defender Keith Bogans harassed Jamison and did his best on James when he drew that assignment. He wasn't hesitant to step up the physical play on Jamison.
"Not at all; that's part of my game," Bogans said. "I had to make it tough on him. My thing is to not let him catch the ball. If he can't get the ball he can't hurt us. When he does catch it, I have to make him take a tough shot."
Besides locking down on Jamison, the Spurs also had to slow down the Cavs. Cleveland had a 22-2 edge in fast-break points at halftime. But the Cavs scored only two more in transition than San Antonio in the second half.