Shooting woes put Cleveland in bad situation
nba finals: SPURS 75, CAVALIERS 72
CLEVELAND — If the Cavaliers are going to win their first NBA championship, they are going to have to go where no team has gone before.
The San Antonio Spurs went up 3-0 in the NBA Finals with an ugly 75-72 victory Tuesday night at sold-out Quicken Loans Arena.
The Spurs can wrap up their fourth title in nine years in Game 4 Thursday at 9 p.m. at The Q.
No team in playoff history has come back from a 3-0 deficit.
“Everybody has to still believe,” said Cleveland’s LeBron James, who did not play nearly as well as his
25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists suggest. “It’s the first to four games, but we’ve dug ourselves a big hole now.”
The Cavaliers were down 72-70 when James got into the lane with about 18 seconds to go and was double-teamed by Tim Duncan. On his team’s most important offensive possession of the series, he passed to a non-offensive player, Anderson Varejao, at the top of the key.
Looking stunned he had the ball in that situation and appearing totally unsure what to do with it, Varejao spun into the lane and tossed up an awkward-looking glass ball with
14 seconds to go.
“It was miscommunication,” James said.
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown was screaming for a timeout from the sideline prior to that play, but did not get one.
“I’m more tired from yelling timeout 18 times in a row than from the game,” Brown said. “I was yelling, ‘Timeout, timeout, timeout.’”
After Varejao’s miss, Manu Ginobili, who had not scored, split a pair of free throws to put the Spurs up three with
10.4 ticks on the clock. A James drive made it 73-72 with 6.3 seconds left, but two more Ginobili free throws made it 75-72 with 5.5 seconds to go.
Following a 20-second timeout by each team, the Cavaliers inbounded to James running to his left above the 3-point arc. Bruce Bowen tried to foul James, but no call was made and the 6-foot-8, 240-pounder missed a 3-point attempt, ending any chance Cleveland had of forcing overtime.
“We had to go for a three,” James said. “We were down three points. It went in and it came out.”
Asked about Bowen trying to foul, James, who complained about the no-call on the floor, said it was “incidental contact.”
“It didn’t affect my shot,” he said. “I had a good look at it and I missed it.”
James finished the game 9-of-23 from the field, including 0-5 from behind the arc, from where the Cavaliers shot 3-of-19 as a team compared to San Antonio’s 10-of-19. The 22-year-old also had five turnovers, giving him 17 in the series.
“I’m just thrilled by Bruce Bowen,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said of the man who defended James for most of the night, with a lot of help from his teammates. “He’s guarding somebody who’s going to be a Hall-of-Fame player when all is said and done, and (Bowen) scored 13 points and had nine rebounds. What a yeoman’s effort on his part. I thought he was fantastic from beginning to end.”
Bowen, who made 4 of 5 from behind the arc, had to be good on offense, because San Antonio’s big three of Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili struggled mightily, going a combined 13-of-41 from the field.
Duncan had eight points in the first period, but finished with just 14 on 6-of-17 shooting, plus nine boards. Parker had 17 points on 7-of-17 shooting, while Ginobili had three points and was 0-of-7 from the floor.
Drew Gooden had 13 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out for the Cavaliers, while Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 12 points and 18 boards. Pavlovic had 13 points, but he was 5-of-15 from the field, while Daniel Gibson, who started in place of the inactive Larry Hughes, was 1-of-10 from the field, including 0-of-5 on 3-pointers.
“Our guys fought,” Brown said. “They gave effort, but we did not make enough plays down the stretch to win the ballgame.”
The Cavaliers were down 67-57 when San Antonio’s Michael Finley hit a 3-pointer with 6:38 to go, but the Spurs did not score for the next 5:03.
The Cavaliers got within two with an 8-0 run — it was actually more of a crawl — but they had five possessions to tie the game. Pavlovic missed an off-balance jumper while trying to beat the shot clock on the first, Varejao committed a turnover on the second and James then missed three shots in a row, two of them drives to the hoop.
“I missed a couple bunnies that rimmed in and rimmed out,” he said.
The teams combined for the second-lowest scoring game in finals history. Syracuse and Fort Wayne set the record of 145 on April 7, 1955 — Syracuse won 74-71 — and San Antonio and New York combined for 147 in an 80-67 Knicks victory in 1999.
“We set the Western world of offensive basketball back 10 years,” Popovich said.
Duncan did not score in the second and third quarters — he went 27:50 without a point from late in the first period to early in the fourth — but the Spurs still led 55-50 after three.
The Cavaliers, who were 1-of-12 from behind the arc at that point compared to the Spurs’ 7-of-13, got outscored 15-12 in the third period, which tied for the lowest-scoring quarter in NBA Finals history (New Jersey-San Antonio in 2003, Dallas-Miami in 2007).
The Cavaliers were 6-of-22 from the field (.273) in that memorable quarter, including 0-of-8 from behind the arc. They did not attempt a free throw. The Spurs weren’t much better, making 5-of-15 from the field, but they did make a pair of 3-pointers and three free throws.
The Cavaliers controlled most of the first half, but the Spurs went on a 10-0 run over the final 2:30 of the second quarter — their last points came on a Parker floater at the halftime buzzer — to go up 40-38 at intermission.
James picked up his third foul on a questionable push-off call against Bowen with 6:01 to play in the second quarter, but Duncan got his third 37 seconds later on another shaky call. The Spurs played a lot better without their superstar than the Cavaliers did, as Cleveland was outscored 15-8 with James on the bench.
The first quarter was absolutely ugly, but the Cavaliers did manage an 18-16 lead, due largely to their 19-8 edge on the boards. It’s the only time Cleveland has been up at the end of a quarter in the entire series.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Cleveland vs. San Antonio
WHAT: Game 4, Spurs lead best-of-seven series 3-0
WHEN: Thursday, 9 p.m.
WHERE: Quicken Loans Arena
TV/RADIO: Channel 5; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM