July 2, 2016

Mostly clear

Cavs dig in to beat Spurs

CLEVELAND —His coach wanting to get him some rest, LeBron James had on a navy blue sports jacket and white dress shirt.

Then Antawn Jamison exited the game in the third period when the back of his knee stiffened up.
Shaquille O’Neal is al-ready out, probably for the rest of the regular season and perhaps the first round of the playoffs, with a thumb injury.

Free agent Zydrunas Il-gauskas is coming back, but not until March 22 at the earliest.

Heck, even Daniel Gib-son, who missed four games due to the birth of his son, and Anthony Parker, who jammed his finger in the first quarter, weren’t oper-ating at peak efficiency.

Somehow, the Cavaliers still found a way to beat the San Antonio Spurs 97-95 Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

They did it because they got 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists from point guard Mo Wil-liams, who had been strug-gling mightily.

They did it because they got 16 points, four boards and five assists off the bench from fellow guard Delonte West, who contin-ues to play his best when his team needs him the most.

And they did it despite a terrific game by San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili, who had 38 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

The only thing that really mattered on this night, though, was that they did it, period.

J.J. Hickson put the Cavaliers up 91-90 by mak-ing a pair of free throws with 1:05 remaining, and West then stole a Tim Dun-can pass on the wing and was fouled. West also made both free throws to put Cleveland up three with 52.8 ticks on the clock.

George Hill and Roger Mason both missed wide-open 3-pointers on San Antonio’s next possession, but the Spurs got the re-bound after both, finally calling timeout with 23.7 seconds to go.

Ginobili then hit what looked like a step-back three, but officials reviewed the play and saw the tip of his shoe was on the line, leaving Cleveland up 93-92 with 14.2 seconds left.

Williams, an .893 shooter at the line, forced the Spurs to foul him and made both shots with 9.0 seconds re-maining.

Mason got another open three off a great inbounds play drawn up by San Anto-nio coach Gregg Popovich, but missed again, making him 0-of-8 from beyond the arc on the night.

Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao got the rebound and made two free throws to wrap up the improbable victory before Ginobili hit a 3-pointer at the final buzzer.

The Cavaliers were down 76-72 after three periods, but Jamison, who left the game early in that quarter, had already taken his 17 points to the locker room, done for the night.

Cleveland kept it close by holding Ginobili, who had 23 points in the first 19 minutes of the game, to three points in the third period.

It didn’t hurt that Jawad Williams, who started in place of James for the second straight game, heated up. Having Varejao and Hickson hustling all over the court wasn’t a bad thing, either.

But San Antonio had some weapons of its own, the explosive Ginobili, veteran big man Duncan and lightning-quick second-year point guard Hill fore-most among them.

Ginobili already had 23 points with 5:20 to play in the first half, which was about the only reason San Antonio, which didn’t go to Duncan nearly often enough, found itself in a 39-39 game.

Then Hill, starting in place of injured All-Star Tony Parker, who broke a bone in his right hand on Saturday, began blowing by Mo Williams or West as the Spurs went up 52-49 at half-time.

Mo Williams, who was 3-of-17 from the field Saturday in Milwaukee, made his first three shots against the Spurs and had eight points, six boards and six assists at intermission.

The Cavaliers, however, hurt themselves with turnovers over the opening two quarters. Mo Williams and West had only three between them officially, but they continually threw ill-advised lob passes to a teammate that was sandwiched between two defenders.

Fortunately for the Cavaliers, the ball usually bounced out of bounds or their guards got bailed out by an official’s call.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rickn@ohio.net.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.