Friday, September 30, 2016

Spurs edge Cavaliers in Finals rematch, 113-116.

This NBA Finals rematch lived up the hype, and then some! A close game early, the Spurs used the home crowd to carve a lead that grew to double-digits due to San Antonio's stellar ball movement and suffocating defense.

However, the big three of the Cavaliers (LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love) were also playing strongly and sparked a huge 19-7 run in the second quarter, stealing the lead away at halftime, 56-55, in dramatic fashion.

Dramatic fashion was perhaps the theme of the second half. The Cavaliers kept executing flawlessly, and the Spurs started missing shots, especially Danny Green (3-12 from 3PT range) and Kawhi Leonard was not his usual self from distance either. However, Pau Gasol kept his strong play going from the first half, becoming player of the game with 27 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Gasol hit a clutch shot from mid range late in the 4th quarter as the Spurs somehow rallied back despite all odds, even with Tony Parker having fouled out in an unusual manner.

Manu Ginobili stepped up late with just 3 minutes left, nailing a three-pointer to give the Spurs a three point lead. Cleveland called timeout, marking what would be a wild conclusion to this showdown. But the Spurs defense was so strong, the Cavaliers were called for the 5 Seconds Inbound Violation, to the cheers of the Texan crowd. On the ensuing possession, Gasol hit that shot written above, only for LeBron James (16 points/5 assists/6-18 FG%) to nail a tough fadeaway over Kawhi Leonard (19 points/10 rebounds/7 assists). The game in the balance, Dewayne Dedmon was fouled, made one of two free throws, then a tough layup missed by LeBron and by Tristan Thompson (23 points/10 rebounds) as well. Next, Kawhi passed to an open Dedmon under the rim for a monstrous jam over the Cavaliers' Thompson.

Up by four, Kawhi Leonard slipped as the ball went to an open LeBron James, who hit a clutch 3PTer. But there was only 20 seconds left, so the Cavaliers fouled Ginobili (17 points) and he hit both free throws. Next, adding to the drama, Iman Shumpert made a 3PTer, had his foot not barely been on the line. So, Cleveland got two points instead, forcing them to foul Gasol. The 7'0 Spaniard received "MVP" chants from the home crowd as he made both free throws. LeBron James threw the ball from full court, but it fell way short as the fantastic contest was ended.

Coach Popovich celebrated with his team and shook hands with Cavs' Coach Lue for a great show of competition. The defending champions won round one this time, and they will square up again later this season. The next challenge for the Spurs is Steph Curry's red-hot Golden State Warriors.

When the Spurs were down, "J-Smoove" Josh Smith made a clutch 3PTer as did Thaddeus Young, the latter whom has hit a dry spell as of late, but it was welcome tonight and much needed. Danny Green also had 8 assists.