Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Spurs vs Cavs II: Spurs win 4-0 in tough series

Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs past the Cavaliers again.
Similar to last year's showdown that featured Kawhi "The Claw" Leonard besting LeBron "King" James, the Spurs dominated the Cavaliers again in just 4 games although their opponent caught fire as the series progressed.

In Game 1, the Cavaliers were bogged down by poor shooting and the Spurs raced out to a strong lead. The Cavaliers would go on a remarkable 17-4 run late in the final minutes, but it would be too late. The largest lead for the Spurs at home was 24 points, dominating the 3rd period with a 34-23 advantage, winning 99-113.

Manu Ginobili had 18 points, Danny Green had 14, Pau Gasol had a double-double with 10&10, and the Claw had just 13 points. Michael Carter-Williams had 8 points with 7 assists and Tony Parker had 12 points. In the loss, Kyrie Irving had 19 points; Kevin Love had 16 points with 10 rebounds and LeBron James had 18 points, 7 assists with 5 rebounds.

A vengeful Kyrie Irving came out hot in Game 2, culminating in 40 points for the gifted scorer. He also had 15 assists, but the Spurs would claim the victory, winning 108-124 after a 3PTer by Manu Ginobili. Irving had 30-something before the 3rd quarter was over, but his production slowed in the final quarter as the Spurs pulled away. The Spurs made 12 consecutive points on 3PTers, using defense as a steal by Kawhi Leonard stopped a 16-3 run by Cleveland to start the second half after SA had secured a 10pt lead. The largest lead was 15; SA finished with 12 blocks and 12 steals.

Kyrie Irving's 40-point showcase was one to remember.
Things got interesting as Kawhi and LeBron traded blows, making circus shots and tough and-1 drives, and Danny Green (20pts/6-3PTers) kept that lead for the Spurs with his marksmanship. An isolation 3PTer over LeBron by Leonard iced the game as SA's lead increased, showing the Spurs' shooting talent from the likes of Pau Gasol (17pts/15rebs), Tayshaun Prince and even MCW to stave off the Cavaliers. The Spurs dominated the 4th quarter 35-22, sealing the 2-0 advantage. Kawhi Leonard had 28 points with 9 rebounds, whereas LeBron James had a poor showing on 5-13 shooting but 13 rebounds with 8 assists. MCW came up with a clutch steal late, as well.
Kevin Love finally got hot in Game 4, but it was too late.

Game 3 came along with poor defense by the Cavaliers. Pau Gasol was on fire, scoring 18 points in the 1st Quarter. Tony Parker made three straight 3PTers. The sensational Kyrie Irving went cold in Game 3 after his huge effort in Game 2. A 3PTer by Danny Green at the buzzer made it 40-21, Spurs. The Spanish big-man would finish with a monstrous 27 points and 8 rebounds. Kawhi Leonard had 22 points and 4 steals, some of which obtained from LeBron James in another underwhelming effort. Tony Parker had 16 points and 10 assists. Green finished with 15 points on 5 long balls. Thaddeus Young had 13 points, Josh Smith had 10 and even Kevin Garnett had 10 off the bench.

Kyrie Irving's play would improve as the game went along, finishing with 24 points and 11 assists (8-20 shooting) and LeBron caught fire late for 22 points/9 rebounds/9 assists. Tristan Thompson had a nice showing with 18 points and 13 rebounds. JR Smith also had 20 points. It became clear that Cleveland had the talent to make things interesting for Game 4, but they needed this win. For what it is worth, LeBron James' heat-check began with defense by blocking Kawhi Leonard more than once. The Spurs found themselves in foul trouble as the Cavaliers tried to steal this one. Leonard and Green were not having it, winning 129-120 in Cleveland.

Game 4 began with an early lead for the Spurs, but its two-man punch struggled in Gasol and Leonard. The Cavaliers looked poised to prolong the series to a pivotal game 5, especially thanks to Kevin Love (34 points) and his range from 3PT territory. The Cavaliers would rally and take the lead as this turned into a point-for-point showdown with the series on the line. Kawhi Leonard would be clutch in these moments, rising up over LeBron James for a 3PTer and sailing over him for a pair of dunks that sealed the game, similar to last season. Danny Green did not disappoint, matching Love from 3PT land, making some ridiculous long balls in transition that even wowed the Cleveland crowd. A steal by Kawhi on the King all but sealed the game, leading to another dunk by Leonard. The Cavaliers would miss one final shot at the buzzer, but the lead had already grown by that point. Kawhi Leonard was named Finals MVP, and he had a tremendous season for the Spurs, more than making up for the absence of retiree Tim Duncan. It could have easily shifted into a 5-game series, but the Spurs edged the Cavaliers when it mattered most.

The Spurs, sans Tim Duncan, still won their 5th title in 6 seasons.