July 23, 2014

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Forget the Alamo

Cavaliers crushed,leave Texas down 0-2

SAN ANTONIO — If the Cavaliers were lucky, no one was watching.
In a mostly pathetic display that no doubt caused millions of viewers nationwide to switch to the series finale of “The Sopranos,” the Cavaliers got whacked 103-92 by the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday night at the AT&T Center in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
The Spurs, who fell asleep long enough to see a 29-point lead late in the third quarter shrink to eight with 4:53 left, lead the best-of-seven series 2-0, with Game 3 slated for Tuesday at 9 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena.
“We’ve got to bring the juice,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “Right now, we’re not.”
With Game 1 having already drawn the lowest television ratings of any opener in finals history, Game 2 was so bad for three periods that ABC would simply have canceled the rest of this series if it were a sitcom.
But just when what was supposed to be a drama had turned into a comedy, the Cavaliers went on an amazing 25-6 run to start the fourth period, pulling them within eight with 4:53 to go.
Cleveland was still within eight when San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili hit a 3-pointer, was fouled by rookie Daniel Gibson and made the free throw with 2:24 to go, effectively ending the game once and for all.
“That was a heckuva shot,” Brown said. “He’s a tremendous player. He tricked our young player. When he shot the ball — you can go back and look at the tape — he leaned to the right, right into him. That was just a heckuva play by Manu.”
LeBron James (25 points, seven rebounds, six assists, six more turnovers) wound up with decent numbers, but two early fouls doomed his team, which had no answer for Tony Parker (30 points), Ginobili (25 points) and Tim Duncan (23 points, nine rebounds, eight assists), who combined for 78 points and helped the Spurs lead by as many as 28 points in the first half.
“I can’t remember the last time I didn’t play 40-plus minutes,” said James, who played 38 minutes. “I got two quick fouls and it definitely didn’t work in our favor.”
Brown will no doubt be second-guessed for leaving James on the bench for the last nine minutes of the first quarter, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered.
His team, if it could be called that in the first half, was actually down just 16-13 at one point with James on the pine, but just when it looked like Cleveland might make it to the end of the quarter without its superstar, the Spurs went on a 12-0 run to take control.
“It is what it is,” Brown said. “You don’t ever want him to sit, but he had to.”
James came back to start the second period, but things went from bad to worse for the Cavaliers, who grabbed a shovel and started digging their own grave.
“Our effort has to be better,” Brown said. “Our aggression has to be higher. We have to be able to do it and still be poised.”
Cleveland point guard Larry Hughes, playing with a partial tear to the plantar fascia in his left foot, succeeded in lowering his scoring average for the series to 1.0 with a scoreless outing in 20 minutes, but to blame him more than anyone else would be inaccurate, because this was a team effort for three quarters.
“It doesn’t matter if you lose by one or by 30 to us,” James said. “A loss is a loss.”
The first half was an unmitigated disaster for the Cavaliers, who trailed 58-33 at intermission. It was the third-largest halftime lead in NBA Finals history, with Boston’s 79-49 margin over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the 1985 series the largest.
The Cavaliers were so bad in the first half they were outscored by 10 points by Parker (16), Duncan (15) and Ginobili (12), who combined for 43 points on 15-of-25 shooting.
The lowlight in a half of lowlights for Cleveland was a James airball on a free throw that was so short it barely brushed the bottom of the net.
“We’ve just got to dig from within,” Brown said. “I don’t have anything magical. I’m not that smart.”
As a team, the Spurs shot 55.3 percent (21-of-38) in the first half to Cleveland’s 26.8 (11-of-41), with Duncan (five) having more assists than the Cavaliers’ entire roster (four). The second quarter was particularly appalling, as San Antonio was 11-of-17 from the field (.647) and Cleveland was 4-of-18 (.222).
For good measure, the Spurs also had a 30-19 edge on the boards and a 13-4 margin in assists at intermission, at which time the Cavaliers were 10-of-18 at the line (.556) and 1-of-8 on 3-pointers.
“We’re in the finals and we got a win,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “I’m thrilled about that.”
James picked up two fouls in the first 2:55, both trying to help inside against Duncan, and the game, for all intents and purposes, was over by the time he returned at the start of the second period.
With Parker either blowing by people — he went past four Cavaliers on one end-to-end burst — or Duncan dominating inside, Cleveland trailed by 15 late in the first quarter and was down 28-17 at the end of the quarter.
The Cavaliers made just seven of 23 shots in that period (.304) and failed to get the ball inbounds following a three-point play by Parker, but it turned out they were just getting warmed up for their second-quarter display of ineptitude.
That featured lousy coaching by Brown, who put several lineups on the floor that had no chance of working, horrendous defense, poor free throw shooting and virtually no offensive execution.
San Antonio outscored the Cavaliers 42-17 over one stretch of the first half, giving it a 58-30 lead and causing millions of fans nationwide to reach for their remote controls.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rickn@ohio.net.

next up
WHO: Cleveland vs. San Antonio
WHAT: Game 3, Spurs lead series 2-0
WHEN: Tuesday, 9 p.m.
WHERE: Quicken Loans Arena
TV/RADIO: Channel 5; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM