SAN ANTONIO — The Cavaliers nearly put a damper on an emotional night for the Spurs.
Collin Sexton had 24 points for Cleveland and Kevin Love added 18, but the Cavaliers couldn’t close out the upset, falling 116-110 on Thursday night.
Manu Ginobili was a winner in San Antonio. No way the Spurs were going to lose on his special night.
DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points and San Antonio celebrated Ginobili’s number retirement ceremony with a win.
“Well, it will make for a better evening, for sure,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
“Down the stretch when we needed to execute, we just didn’t,” Cleveland coach Larry Drew said. “There was a lot of dribbling, a lot of pounding, but we didn’t execute.”
Ginobili became the ninth Spurs player to have his jersey retired, joining fellow Big Three teammate Tim Duncan as the most recently honored. The Argentine star spent his entire 16-year NBA career with San Antonio, winning four championships while wearing No. 20.
“It was good to feel that vibe and that energy in the building for something that’s bigger than our team,” guard Patty Mills said. “That’s what we are acknowledging tonight, someone who has sacrificed so much to this organization and has understood that the big picture is much bigger than himself.”
Bryn Forbes got the crowd going with a 3-pointer 13 seconds into the game, and the Spurs finished 14-for-33 from long range. Forbes scored 19 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 14.
San Antonio struggled offensively after the fast start but the crowd remained energized by video tributes to Ginobili.
The Spurs scored 40 points in the third quarter while shooting 73 percent from the field after managing just 17 points in the second.
“Being more aggressive,” DeRozan said. “We just came out with a more conscious effort of being aggressive. That’s what we did and we can’t wait to do that. We waited and made it tough on ourselves, but we pulled it through.”
Contributions from the bench helped the Spurs win as Ginobili and a host of former Spurs teammates like Duncan, Tony Parker, Bruce Bowen, David Robinson and others watched from the stands.
“You understand that you’ve got to play with passion and you’ve got to play with heart,” Mills said. “You have to play with your heart on your sleeve and that’s what Manu had done so well and what made him great.”
After Cleveland pulled to 111-110, Mills hit a 3-pointer off a drive and kick by DeRozan with 14 seconds remaining. Mills celebrated at midcourt and DeRozan ran behind him and embraced him as the Cavaliers called a timeout.
Rudy Gay, another reserve, had an offensive rebound with three seconds left and made two free throws to seal the victory.
Marco Belinelli scored 16 points, Gay added 12 and Mills had 11.
Cavaliers: Have lost five straight to the Spurs. Cleveland’s last win in San Antonio came on March 12, 2015.
... The Cavaliers are 31-63 overall against the Spurs.
Spurs: Aldridge and DeRozan have scored 1,500 points this season, becoming the first Spurs teammates to do so since Duncan and Robinson in 1998.
... San Antonio is 30-8 at home.
Ginobili has not decided if he will remain in basketball, but Popovich cringed when asked if he thought the future Hall of Famer could be an NBA coach one day.
“He’s too smart to do that,” Popovich said, drawing laughs. “I’m absolutely serious.
“He’s looked at everything and my guess is, if he stays in basketball, it will be more on management side. Management, scouting, putting the big pictures together. He doesn’t want to sit in the film room and watch pick-and-roll all day. That’s pretty boring.”
DeRozan’s one regret about joining the Spurs this season is that he didn’t get a chance to play with Ginobili before he retired.
“I wish I would have had a year to play with him, but to be able to witness this should be pretty cool,” DeRozan said about the ceremony.
Cavaliers: At the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night.
Spurs: Host the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night.
Spurs 116, Cavaliers 110
CLEVELAND (110): Osman 4-13 0-0 9, Love 7-13 2-2 18, Thompson 2-4 0-0 4, Sexton 10-17 1-2 24, Knight 6-9 0-0 14, Nance Jr. 5-7 2-2 13, Chriss 0-3 2-2 2, Nwaba 5-6 0-0 11, Clarkson 4-15 1-2 10, Stauskas 2-5 0-0 5. Totals 45-92 8-10 110.
SAN ANTONIO (116): DeRozan 10-12 5-5 25, Aldridge 6-15 2-3 14, Poeltl 1-2 2-4 4, White 2-3 1-2 6, Forbes 8-13 0-1 19, Gay 4-10 2-2 12, Cunningham 0-3 0-0 0, Bertans 3-5 0-0 9, Mills 4-11 0-0 11, Belinelli 7-11 0-0 16, Walker IV 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 45-85 12-17 116.
Cleveland 28 25 28 29 — 110
San Antonio 27 17 40 32 — 116
3-Point Goals—Cleveland 12-29 (Sexton 3-7, Knight 2-2, Love 2-4, Nwaba 1-1, Nance Jr. 1-2, Stauskas 1-3, Clarkson 1-4, Osman 1-5, Chriss 0-1), San Antonio 14-33 (Bertans 3-5, Forbes 3-8, Mills 3-9, Belinelli 2-4, Gay 2-4, White 1-1, Aldridge 0-1, Cunningham 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Cleveland 49 (Nance Jr. 11), San Antonio 33 (Gay 8). Assists—Cleveland 18 (Nance Jr. 4), San Antonio 27 (DeRozan 8). Total Fouls—Cleveland 20, San Antonio 14. A—18,756 (18,581).