CLEVELAND: It was hard to remember by the end, when they were buried under the rubble of another blowout loss against a team they haven’t beaten in four years, but there was a time Tuesday when the Cavs looked formidable against the defending Western Conference champions.
They held the ice-cold San Antonio Spurs to a season-low 13 points in the first quarter. The Spurs couldn’t make an outside shot and the Cavs even led by 11 two minutes into the second quarter. Then it all came crashing down amid a flurry of zip passes and 3-pointers, resulting in yet another crushing 122-101 loss. The Spurs scored 109 points over the final three quarters because they shot 50 percent from long range after the first quarter and finished the night with 39 assists on 43 baskets.
“In the first half they missed a lot of shots, so we caught a break,” said Dion Waiters, who scored 24 points in his return from a knee injury. “Against that team, you can’t make a lot of mistakes and we paid for it.”
It was the Cavs’ ninth consecutive loss to the Spurs, who pounded the Cavs by 30 in a late November game after they led by 43. More than three months later, not much has changed.
The Cavs led 27-16 two minutes into the second quarter, but the Spurs got hot from 3-point range and quickly flipped the entire game. Spurs reserves Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw combined to shoot 9-for-13 on 3-pointers.
“We talked about running these guys off the 3-point line and making them drivers,” Mike Brown said. “We told our team these guys are the best passing team in the league. The shot clock can be at 4 or 3 and they’ll make one more pass without panicking. We can never think the play is over.”
Kyrie Irving had 24 points, six assists and four rebounds — the most points he’s ever scored against the Spurs. He entered averaging 13.3 points and shooting less than 34 percent, easily the worst marks of his career against any team. He had never scored more than 19 points against the Spurs until Tuesday.
Spencer Hawes had 20 points and 13 rebounds and Waiters looked good in his return after missing seven games with a hyperextended knee, but Brown was disappointed in the lack of movement after the Cavs had moved so well both offensively and defensively for the last couple weeks.
“We didn’t consistently move the ball or the bodies like we have been doing,” Brown said.
“There were flashes of it through the course of the game, but not consistently like it had been.”
The Cavs were within 11 in the final minute of the third quarter, but Mills and Diaw each made 3-pointers to close the quarter with the Spurs ahead 85-68. Green added nine of the Spurs’ first 11 points in the quarter and the lead was quickly out to 28 on a night they received little from Tony Parker (seven points, five assists) and Tim Duncan (seven points, eight rebounds).
Neither Parker nor Duncan played in the fourth quarter.
The Spurs made 14 3-pointers Tuesday after making 16 in the first meeting, which still stands as their season high. The Spurs combined to shoot 53 percent on 3s (30-for-57) in the two games against the Cavs this season.
“They were moving the ball and they made shots,” Waiters said. “You can never fall asleep against that team. I think a couple plays we fell asleep, got hit with a couple 3s and it busted the game wide open.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.