CLEVELAND — The San Antonio Spurs brought an NBA-best 41-12 record into their game against the Cavaliers on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.
They also brought a 16th-year pro in power forward Tim Duncan, a 12-year veteran in point guard Tony Parker, an 11-year veteran in Manu Ginobili and a 17th-year head coach in Gregg Popovich.
“They are the best team in basketball,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said, putting extra emphasis on the word team. “When the game is over, the last thing those guys do is look at the stat sheet. It’s all about, ‘Did we win the game or not?’
“That’s why they’re such a great basketball team. Obviously, they’ve got three guys that are superstar-type players, but the bottom line with them is just, ‘Win the game.’”
What makes the Spurs unique is they win no matter who plays or doesn’t play. It also helps that Popovich treats Duncan the same as Tiago Splitter and Aron Baynes, and Duncan relishes that.
“Everyone gets Pop’s wrath,” Scott said with a smile.
The 36-year-old Duncan (17.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg), 30-year-old Parker (20.7 ppg, 7.7 apg) and 35-year-old Ginobili (12.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.5 apg) all sat out with minor injuries Monday in Chicago, but San Antonio, which is in the midst of a nine-game road trip sandwiched around the NBA All-Star Game, still won for the 13th time in its last 14 games.
“They’ve been playing great basketball with whoever is in their lineup,” Cleveland veteran Luke Walton said.
Ginobili has missed 13 games this season, Duncan has sat 10 and Parker has missed three. The Spurs were even fined $250,000 early in the season for basically resting all three for a road game against the Miami Heat.
All were in uniform against the Cavs, meaning the Spurs were prepared to put their old-school, team-oriented style of basketball on display at The Q.
“Those three guys can be coaches on the floor,” Scott said. “It’s important to have that type of chemistry when you’re building a championship team.
“We want to get to the point where Kyrie (Irving) and Dion (Waiters) and Tristan (Thompson) are teaching our young guys the offense. That’s a great luxury to have.”
Grass is Green
Spurs starting shooting guard Danny Green was drafted by the Cavs out of North Carolina with the 46th pick in 2009 and averaged 2.0 points in 20 games as a rookie. The 6-foot-6, 210-pounder was cut in training camp the following season when the Cavs elected to keep Manny Harris.
Green was also cut twice by the Spurs before finally latching on for good. He appeared in just eight games in 2010-11, but came back to play in 66 last season (38 starts) and averaged 9.1 points. Green has started all 52 games in which he’s appeared this season and was averaging 10.3 points prior to Wednesday.
When asked what Green was doing well for his team, Popovich said, “The better question is, ‘What is he not doing well for us?’ The guy is really gaining confidence.”
Cavs starting small forward Alonzo Gee played five games for the Spurs in 2010-11, those coming before and after a pair of 11-game stints with the Washington Wizards. Gee was then signed by the Cavs out of the NBA Development League later that season.
“Alonzo was one of our favorites we’ve had go through here,” Popovich said. “He always has a ready smile and he’s one of those guys who always works hard.”
At first glance, Shaun Livingston, Wayne Ellington, C.J. Miles, Walton and Marreese Speights don’t look like an ideal lineup, but the Cavs’ second unit has enjoyed decent success because of its relentless style.
Everyone on the unit has been in the league at least four years and most have gone through some ups and downs over their careers, but they’ve all learned from their various experiences.
“When you’re coming in off the bench, you don’t really have a lot of time to get going,” Walton said. “We like to yap at each other and get each other going and have fun out there.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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