Spurs top Cavaliers, snap 4-game slide
CLEVELAND — The Spurs ended their “rodeo” road trip by roping the Cavaliers.
LeBron James thought San Antonio got some help.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points, Danny Green added 22 and the Spurs ended their annual trip by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-94 on Sunday to snap a four-game losing streak.
Green, who missed Friday’s loss at Denver with food poisoning, came off the bench for the first time in 49 games this season and made five 3-pointers to provide a perfect outside complement to Aldridge’s dynamic inside game. Dejounte Murray added 13 points and nine rebounds for San Antonio, a team not accustomed to any turmoil.
But the super-steady Spurs have not been themselves as they continue to play without injured star Kawhi Leonard, whose timetable to return remains a mystery. They had dropped six of seven and four in a row on a trip (their arena hosts a rodeo every year) that coach Gregg Popovich’s squad typically uses as a spring board into the playoffs.
“Every win is a big one for us,” Green said. “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.”
That would be James, who had 33 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. The Cavs fell to 3-2 since overhauling their roster with three trades, but James wasn’t t disappointed with his team’s effort.
However, he did have a problem with the officiating.
San Antonio was called for just 12 personal fouls — only three in the second half– and shot 32 free throws compared to 14 for Cleveland.
“We’re at a point now where we protect the shooter more than the driver,” said James, who shot four free throws. “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.”
Cleveland was within two points after three, but the Spurs scored the first 10 of the fourth and made all the necessary plays down the stretch to pull off the impressive win.
Kyle Korver’s 3-pointer with 4:47 left brought the Cavs within 96-88, but Patty Mills countered with a 3 for the Spurs.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue has spent most of the season adjusting his lineups and rotations, and he may have to do some more tweaking after starters Cedi Osman, J.R. Smith, George Hill and Tristan Thompson shot a combined 6 of 28. Cleveland has to find a dependable No. 2 option on offense while All-Star Kevin Love recovers from a broken hand.
“We just had a rough night shooting the basketball. It’s going to happen,” Lue said. “I thought defensively we were pretty good. I just thought Aldridge took advantage of us in that third quarter, the start of the third quarter on his post-ups.”
Spurs: G Manu Ginobili sat out with a bruised sternum sustained in Friday’s loss to Denver. … Leonard’s absence continues to hang over the team. He hasn’t played since Jan. 13 and Popovich said earlier this week it’s possible the star could miss the remainder of this season. … C Pau Gasol and Cavs G Jose Calderon spoke in the hallway before the game. They’re close friends, having been teammates on Spain’s national team since 2002. … Traveled 6,546 miles on their annual road trip. San Antonio is 90-41 on the trek since it first began in 2003.
Cavaliers: F Larry Nance Jr. wore No. 22 — his father’s retired number — for the first time since he was traded to Cleveland. The NBA granted Nance permission to switch jersey numbers (he had been wearing No. 24). … Thompson had a season-high 13 rebounds in 23 minutes. … Golfer Jason Day and NFL players Ryan Shazier and Ted Ginn Jr. were among the celebrities in attendance. … Dropped to 39-10 against Western Conference teams at home since Jan. 21, 2015. … James passed Rod Strickland (7,987) for 11th place on career assists list.
Before the game, Popovich joked that it’s easy to become entranced against James.
“I just have to make sure that I don’t just stare at him all night like I did when I first came in the league and played the Bulls. I’d just watch Michael (Jordan) the whole time and Larry Brown would elbow me like, ‘You going to do something?’ I said, ‘Coach, I’ve got to watch. I’ve got to see this guy.'”
James dazzled in the first half, scoring 17 points with seven rebounds and five assists.
Green said bad spaghetti caused him to vomit for just the second time in 20 years.
“I’m just glad I feel better,” he said. “That day’s rest helped for sure.”
Spurs: Host New Orleans on Tuesday in their first home game since Feb. 7.
Cavaliers: Host Brooklyn on Tuesday.