Game 4: San Antonio: 83 Cleveland: 82
Cavs took lead in fourth quarter; Spurs finish sweep
Game … set … mismatch.
What else can anyone say after watching the Cavaliers bomb on the biggest stage they’ve ever been on, swept away in their first NBA Finals by a team so clearly their superior in every way?
Well, you can at least say they went down fighting. That at least they didn’t roll over on their home court, that they scrapped and clawed until the final seconds of Thursday’s series-ending 83-82 loss.
What looked so long like it would be a simple coronation for the Spurs, winners of four titles in the last nine years, instead ended with some actual drama and more than a little competitive fire.
If you’d like to know where either of those elements were in the first 3½ games, you’re certainly not alone.
Still, though it took them until the fourth quarter to decide they really didn’t want their season to end just yet, once the Cavs started playing with the kind of urgency it would have been nice to see from the opening tip of Game 1 in San Antonio, they actually had the Spurs wondering whether they’d be celebrating Father’s Day in their own homes or battling through a Game 5 at The Q.
But in the end, as throughout the entire Finals, while the Cavs might have had The Q, the Spurs always had the answer.
And usually more than one.
Thursday night it was Manu Ginobili’s feathery 3-pointer that found nothing but net with 4:15 to go that gave the Spurs a 69-66 lead after the Cavs had grabbed their first second-half lead of the entire series just minutes earlier.
It was also Ginobili slicing through the lane and the Cavs’ defense for about the billionth time in four games for a crucial layup with 1:05 to go to push the Spurs’ lead to seven.
Even Fabricio Oberto, of all people, got in the act, scoring five of his seven points in the final 2½ minutes once the Cavs made their last-chance lunge at extending this lopsided series.
That’s what happens when you have three offensive stars instead of just one and why the Spurs are so impressive.
In Game 3, Ginobili scored three points … and the Spurs still won.
Thursday night Tim Duncan was 4-of-15 from the field and 4-of-10 from the line, scored just 12 points and had six turnovers … and the Spurs still won.
Then there’s Tony Parker, the series MVP, who averaged 24.5 points a game and got to the basket at will.
“There were times throughout this series that I thought we did a hell of a job defensively for 19, 20, 21 seconds,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “And you talk about a group with poise, (the Spurs) showed a lot of poise by making shots with two and three seconds on the clock.
“And not one time the entire series did they ever look rattled or panicked or frazzled at all. And when you have a team that moves the basketball like they do for that long into the shot clock and you’re chasing because you’ve got to double Tim, it wears on you, and you give up offensive rebounds and you give up late drives.”
While the Cavs countered with their own big shots, determined drives and frenzied defense, they also had too many rebounds slide through their fingers, too many dumb turnovers, too many must-make shots that simply refused to fall.
LeBron James put up his customary 24 points, 10 assists and six rebounds, but he struggled for three quarters before scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter. And it was the King himself who down the stretch failed to secure one crucial rebound, dribbled away the ball for a critical turnover — one of his six for the game and 23 for the series — and shot just 10-of-30 from the field and 2-of-6 from the free throw line.
“I’ve got a lot of things to work on to get ready for next year,” said James, who refused to state the obvious, that he also needs some better teammates, some players who can consistently hit the big shot when he draws three and four defenders, players who will take some of the offensive burden off his broad shoulders.
Instead, James said he thinks the team the Cavs put on the floor in this NBA Finals is good enough to win a championship.
“Once I get better our team will automatically get better,” he said. “I know that for sure.”
Then James did state the obvious.
“We went up against a better team this series,” he said.
Contact Kevin Aprile at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.