Posted on February 25, 2018, by Travis Pulver
The new-look Cleveland Cavaliers lost their first real challenge when they faced the Washington Wizards last week. Even though the Spurs have not been the dominant team fans know and love, beating them would certainly be a feather in their cap. At the same time, a win against the Cavs could be exactly what the Spurs need to break out of their funk.
To win, San Antonio would need to play the kind of team-oriented, selfless style that they have become known for, for all four quarters. Cleveland would need someone to have a big game—and not just LeBron James.
San Antonio got things started on the right foot by getting out to an early 25-20 lead after the first quarter. But the Cavs were not about to sit back and wait to take over the game—or at least James wasn’t going to. He led the charge in the second with 12 points, four rebounds, and a pair of assists to help the Cavs take a 53-50 lead into halftime.
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The Spurs came out strong in the second half and took an early lead only to see the Cavs regain it late in the quarter. But a 25-foot three pointer by Danny Green tied the game up at 74-74 with 34.6 seconds to go. A bad pass by James led to an 18-foot jumper by Bryn Forbes that put San Antonio up by two going into the fourth.
At this point, it was still anyone’s game. But an 11-0 run to start the quarter put the Spurs in command, 87-74, with 9:22 to play.
If the Cavs could start hitting a few shots they could get back in the game—but they didn’t. San Antonio kept the pressure on and lead by at least ten points for most of the quarter. LaMarcus Aldridge capped off the scoring with a late layup to make the final 110-94, San Antonio.
“Every win is a big one for us,” Spurs guard Danny Green said after the game (ESPN). “But this month we’ve had some ups and downs. This is a really good team, especially with the best player in the world over there.”
LeBron James led the Cavs with 33 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists. But he got little help from his teammates. Cleveland’s other four starters were a combined 6-28 from the floor and 0-10 from three-point range. George Hill, J.R. Smith, and Cedi Osman only made one shot each.
James got a decent amount of help from Jordan Clarkson (17 points). But he got little from Larry Nance Jr. and Rodney Hood (ten combined points).
As far as the Spurs were concerned, it was a textbook kind of game. Seven players, including all five starters, scored in double figures. LaMarcus Aldridge led the way with 27 points followed by Danny Green who had 22 points off the bench.
Cleveland will try to get back on the right side of the scoreboard when they take on the Brooklyn Nets at home Tuesday. San Antonio will try to keep the good times rolling when they return home Wednesday to face the New Orleans Pelicans.
In his second game back from injury, Rudy Gay played 16 minutes off the bench. He went 2-8 from the floor for four points. San Antonio will undoubtedly continue to work him back in slowly. They’ll be more concerned he’s ready to contribute more in the playoffs then the end of the regular season.
After the game, James complained about the officials (ESPN):
“We’re at a point now where we protect the shooter more than the driver. There’s no reason I should be going to the line four times in a game when I drive 100 times to the paint and I’m getting hit and slapped and grabbed and whatever and what not. We protect the shooter. That’s what it’s turned into. Chicks dig the long ball and that’s what it’s about.”
The Spurs ended up going to the line 32 times while the Cavaliers did only 14 times. It will be interesting to see if the league will have an issue with what he said.