(The Sports Xchange) - San Antonio found a way to keep their home record unblemished with a 99-95 win over the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.
Spurs point guard Tony Parker scored 24 points, and Kawhi Leonard poured in 20, 16 after halftime, as San Antonio shrugged off a slow start by clamping down on the Cavaliers with their trademark defense.
“We just played better defense in the second half,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “(Cleveland) did the same stuff, but we just played it more aggressively and did a better job, both execution-wise and competitively.”
Eighteen of Parker’s points came in the first half, when just about every other San Antonio player struggled.
The second half belonged to Leonard, the league’s reigning defensive player of the year, who held Cavaliers forward LeBron James to seven points after halftime.
“Kawhi made LeBron work for everything he had,” Popovich said. “It was a heck of a win because we gave away the first quarter.”
San Antonio (35-6) have won their first 23 home games of the season, the most by a Western Conference team to open the season since Portland won their first 26 at home in 1977-78. The Golden State Warriors are 18-0 at home this season.
The victory also allowed the Spurs to extend their regular-season home victory streak to 32 games, dating back to an overtime loss to the Cavaliers last March, and granted them their best start after 41 games in franchise history.
Leonard pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds, and David West scored 13 points, including two huge baskets in the first 1:07 of the fourth quarter to give San Antonio a lead they would not relinquish. Manu Ginobili added 10 points.
Cleveland, who had their eight-game win streak snapped, had all five of their starters score in double figures.
“We stopped moving the ball, but their defense had a lot to do with that,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said. “We got away from what we were doing earlier, and (San Antonio) picked it up. We have to be a little bit more determined to play throughout the game with flow and pace.”
James led the Cavaliers (27-10) with 22 points, while Tristan Thompson added a season-high 18 points and 14 rebounds. J.R. Smith scored 17 points, Kyrie Irving hit 16, and Kevin Love contributed 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Cleveland committed 18 turnovers that resulted in 19 points for the Spurs. San Antonio gave the ball away 12 times, leading to just six points.
“We can’t afford to give the ball away or have the amount of turnovers we had against a team that doesn’t make many mistakes, especially at home,” James said.
“We could have executed better, but it’s tough to do against San Antonio. They are always in the right position to make the most out of every possession.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford