CLEVELAND — One team honored a retiring player. The other was fighting to keep alive its chances for the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
It was clear which was which, as the San Antonio Spurs cruised to a 112-90 victory over the Cavaliers on Sunday at The Q.
While Cleveland (19-62) rewarded Channing Frye with a starting nod — he finished with five points and four rebounds in 16 minutes — and promptly lost its ninth straight game, the Spurs (47-34) stayed right with the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City in the West playoff seeding race.
“These guys have been awesome,” Frye said. “I’m going to miss them and these relationships the most. Basketball is a game. If you don’t appreciate who you’re playing with, then why even play?”
Calling it quits after a 13-year career — he missed one season due to a heart condition — Frye was honored in a pregame ceremony that included Kevin Love, former teammate Richard Jefferson and Cavs general manager Koby Altman.
All Cleveland players donned duplicates of Frye’s No. 9 warmup prior to the game, and Love checked in midway through the first period wearing his good friend’s No. 45 University of Arizona road jersey before pulling it off and handing it to Frye.
When the likable 35-year-old checked out of the game for good with 1:34 left, he was tackled by several teammates near the Cavs bench.
“That was more tiring than the game,” Frye joked.
The rest of the game wasn’t nearly as fun for the Cavs, who will finish 19-63 — and on a 10-game losing streak — if they drop their regular-season finale to Charlotte on Tuesday at The Q. That would be the same record the Cavs had in 2010-11, the first time LeBron James left Cleveland.
For one day, that didn’t matter all that much, as Sunday was all about Frye as far as Cleveland players and coaches were concerned.
“He encompasses all the right things,” said Love, who purchased Frye’s Arizona jersey Saturday. “The spirit of the game, our culture, it’s everything Channing is about on and off the floor.
“He always found a way to keep it light while also knowing there was a bigger picture.”
LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Spurs, who also got 14 points and nine assists from DeMar DeRozan, 14 points apiece from reserves Patty Mills and Davis Bertans, and 13 points, six rebounds and four assists from point guard Bryn Forbes.
Cleveland got 16 points apiece from guards Collin Sexton, who went 6-for-15 from the field and was still playing at the final buzzer, and Brandon Knight, who had eight of his points in serious garbage time.
Ante Zizic had 14 points and six boards, Larry Nance Jr. had 11 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, Cedi Osman had 12 points and Love, who had missed the last four games with what was called a sore shoulder but wanted to play with Frye, had five points and four rebounds in 13 minutes.
Asked after the game if he would play against Charlotte, Love said, “I think I’m done,” while Frye’s status will be determined today.
Both Frye’s parents died while he was with the Cavs, yet he experienced the highest high of his professional career when Cleveland won an NBA title in 2016.
“I’ve had some good times and some bad times in Cleveland,” he said. “When you have such highs and lows, you create kind of a love.
“A lot of players say they love the fans,” he added. “I legit love our fans.”
Down 16 at halftime, the Cavs held the Spurs to 17 points in the third period — and still trailed by 16 after an extremely hard-to-watch quarter. San Antonio had just eight points in the first eight minutes of the period, but the closest Cleveland got was 70-61.
All this after the Cavs jumped to a 10-4 lead — Frye had the first points of the game on a 3-pointer from the top of the arc — and were tied at 24 following the first period.
Cleveland, however, crumbled badly while giving up a 9-0 run in the final 1:35 of the second quarter and trailed 62-46 at intermission. Aldridge had 16 points and 11 boards at the break, while DeRozan scored all eight of his first-half points in the final 4:12 of the second period.
For what it’s worth, most of the Spurs’ damage came while Frye was on the bench, where he spent a great deal of time in 2018-19 before appearing in his 35th game of the season Sunday.
“When you average four (points) and two (rebounds),” Frye said, “you say, ‘Lemme be just a good dude.’”
- There’s a chance Cleveland’s Larry Drew could be coaching his last game Tuesday, but he said he has not yet discussed his future with management. The Cavs hold an option on Drew’s contract for next season — his deal was revamped after previous coach Tyronn Lue was fired six games into the season — and will pay him a buyout if they choose not to exercise it.
“We’ve decided to wait until the season is completely over before we discuss that,” Drew said.
- Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was thrilled to learn 84-year-old Bill Fitch, who coached the Cavs’ inaugural team in 1970-71, will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September.
“It’s way, way, way overdue,” Popovich said. “When something like that happens, everyone breathes a sigh of relief because he did such a great job — and not just in one place.”
- The Cavs played without Tristan Thompson (rest), Nik Stauskas (back), Matthew Dellavedova (concussion) and John Henson (wrist).
Spurs 112, Cavaliers 90
SAN ANTONIO (112): DeRozan 4-9 6-7 14, Aldridge 6-14 6-6 18, Poeltl 4-5 0-0 8, White 3-8 2-2 8, Forbes 5-11 0-0 13, Cunningham 0-2 0-0 0, Gay 4-6 0-1 8, Pondexter 2-2 2-2 6, Bertans 6-9 0-0 14, Motiejunas 1-1 0-2 2, Mills 5-9 0-0 14, Belinelli 0-3 0-0 0, Walker IV 3-3 1-2 7. Totals 43-82 17-22 112.
CLEVELAND (90): Osman 4-10 3-4 12, Nance Jr. 4-8 2-2 11, Frye 2-6 0-0 5, Sexton 6-15 2-2 16, Knight 5-12 5-7 16, Adel 1-1 2-2 5, Love 2-4 0-0 5, Chriss 0-2 2-4 2, Zizic 5-6 4-5 14, Nwaba 1-6 0-0 2, Clarkson 1-8 0-1 2. Totals 31-78 20-27 90.
San Antonio 24 38 17 33 — 112
Cleveland 24 22 17 27 — 90
3-Point Goals—San Antonio 9-22 (Mills 4-7, Forbes 3-5, Bertans 2-4, Cunningham 0-1, Gay 0-1, Aldridge 0-1, Belinelli 0-1, White 0-2), Cleveland 8-29 (Sexton 2-7, Adel 1-1, Nance Jr. 1-2, Love 1-3, Knight 1-3, Frye 1-4, Osman 1-4, Nwaba 0-1, Clarkson 0-4). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—San Antonio 49 (Aldridge 13), Cleveland 34 (Nance Jr. 10). Assists—San Antonio 27 (DeRozan 9), Cleveland 16 (Nance Jr. 5). Total Fouls—San Antonio 18, Cleveland 16. Technicals—Gay, Nance Jr., Chriss. A—19,432 (20,562).