San Antonio Spurs clip Cleveland Cavaliers, remain perfect at home

By Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange   |   Jan. 15, 2016 at 12:49 AM
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SAN ANTONIO -- Finding a way to beat San Antonio at home means unlocking the combination that will open the Spurs' vaunted defense.

Some teams are able to find one of the numbers required this season, and a few even heard two of the three clicks needed, but no one has been good enough to crack the code.

San Antonio repelled the latest safecracking attempt, this time by Cleveland Cavaliers, and found a way to keep its home record unblemished with a 99-95 win over the Eastern Conference-leading Cavaliers on Thursday.

Spurs point guard Tony Parker scored 24 points, and forward Kawhi Leonard poured in 20 points, 16 after halftime, as San Antonio shrugged off an early case of the doldrums by clamping down on the Cavaliers with its trademark defense.

"We just played better defense in the second half," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "(Cleveland) did the same stuff, but we just played it more aggressively and did a better job, both execution-wise and competitively. That's what it's always about."

Eighteen of Parker's points came in the first half, when just about every other San Antonio player was struggling. The second half belonged to Leonard, the league's reigning defensive player of the year, who also held Cavaliers forward LeBron James to seven points after halftime.

"Kawhi made LeBron work for everything he had," Popovich said. "It was a heck of a win because we gave away the first quarter."

San Antonio (35-6) has won its first 23 home games of the season, the most by a Western Conference team to open the season since the Portland Trail Blazers won their initial 26 home games in 1977-78. The Golden State Warriors are 18-0 at home this season.

The victory also allowed the Spurs to extend their regular-season home victory streak to 32 games, dating back to an overtime loss to the Cavaliers last March, and granted them their best-ever start after 41 games in franchise history.

Leonard also pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds, and reserve forward David West scored 13 points, including two huge baskets in the first 1:07 of the fourth quarter to give San Antonio a lead it would not relinquish. Spurs reserve guard Manu Ginobili added 10 points.

Cleveland, which had its eight-game win streak snapped, had all five of its starters score in double figures.

"We stopped moving the ball, but their defense had a lot to do with that," Cavaliers coach David Blatt said. "We got away from what we were doing earlier, and (San Antonio) picked it up. We have to be a little bit more determined to play throughout the game with flow and pace."

James led the Cavaliers (27-10) with 22 points, while center Tristan Thompson added a season-high 18 points and 14 rebounds. Guard J.R. Smith scored 17 points, point guard Kyrie Irving hit for 16 points, and forward Kevin Love contributed 10 points and 12 rebounds.

Cleveland committed 18 turnovers that resulted in 19 points for the Spurs. San Antonio gave the ball away 12 times, leading to just six points.

"We can't afford to give the ball away or have the amount of turnovers we had against a team that doesn't make many mistakes, especially at home," James said. "We could have executed better, but it's tough to do against San Antonio. They are always in the right position to make the most out of every possession."

Cleveland built as much as a 15-point lead before settling for a 32-20 advantage after the first quarter.

The second quarter began at a break-neck pace, and San Antonio scored six of the quarter's first nine points to climb back to within 35-26. James took over the game in the middle of the quarter, scoring three straight inside baskets to help keep the Spurs at bay. Parker's short jumper with 1.9 seconds to play brought San Antonio to within 50-44, the closest it has been since the game's first two minutes, and set the stage for the second half.

"(Parker) tries to get guys going," West said of Parker's play on both ends of the floor. "When he's aggressive like that from the onset, it really gives us an advantage because he's such a difficult cover."

San Antonio opened the third quarter on a 13-4 run and took its first lead of the game on a 3-pointer by Leonard, who had seven points in the spurt. The rest of the quarter featured seven ties and six lead changes.

Spurs reserve guard Kyle Anderson canned a jumper with 13 seconds to play in the third to give San Antonio a 72-70 lead, but Cleveland reserve guard Matthew Dellavedova poured in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Cavs the final say heading to the fourth quarter.

Two buckets by West in the first 1:07 of the fourth quarter granted San Antonio the lead again, and Parker followed with a finger-roll layup to put the Spurs up 78-75.

San Antonio guard Danny Green then hit two of three free-throw chances, reserve guard Patty Mills drained a 3-pointer over Australian countryman Dellavedova, and Leonard went to the hole for another layup, and suddenly the Spurs were up 87-77 with 6:16 to play.

NOTES: Spurs G Tony Parker scored a season-high 31 points in 32 minutes of San Antonio's 109-99 win at Detroit on Tuesday. ... The Spurs finished 1-1 against the Cavaliers last season. In the first meeting, San Antonio posted a 92-90 win at Quicken Loans Arena on Nov. 19. Cleveland then picked up a 128-125 overtime victory at the AT&T Center on March 12. In that game, G Kyrie Irving produced a career- and NBA season-high 57 points. ... The Spurs have trailed for just 54 seconds in 264 minutes played in fourth quarters at home this season. ... A 110-107 overtime win over Dallas on Tuesday gave Cleveland a 4-0 record on its current six-game road trip. It's the first time since December 1994 that the Cavaliers have won four consecutive games on the same road swing. ... Cavaliers F Tristan Thompson has played in 324 consecutive regular-season games dating to Feb. 10, 2012, which is the longest active streak in the NBA. His streak is 122 more games than the next-longest active streak (Sacramento G Ben McLemore, 202).

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