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James helps Cavaliers end long drought vs. Spurs

Nov 4, 2006 - 4:24 AM SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- LeBron James sent an early message to the San Antonio Spurs.

James poured in 35 points to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to an 88-81 victory over the Spurs, their first win in 18 years in the Alamo City.

Two-time MVP Tim Duncan did his best to rally the Spurs, scoring 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't enough to erase a 13-point deficit.

"We have been in this type of situation many times and tonight we showed a lot of poise to make this victory happen," James said. "As a team we want to walk the walk and not just talk the talk this season. This is a great win for us. The Spurs are the best team in the league and we want to beat them every time."

The Cavaliers could not have caught the Spurs at a better time. San Antonio was coming off an emotional victory over archrival Dallas on Thursday and looked listless throughout, managing just 56 points through the first three quarters.

"It's not a great way to start this year," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said of the grueling back-to-back games. "We knew it was our biggest problem last year, so we really wanted to start on the right foot and do things better, but we just couldn't.

"They played a great game and we did not, and that's why they beat us."

James, who was just 3 years old when Cleveland last won on San Antonio's home floor on December 8, 1988, came out intent on ending the slide singlehandedly. He had 10 of his team's first 12 points and finished with 15 in the first quarter to give the Cavaliers a 23-18 lead.

The Cavaliers maintained the lead throughout the middle two quarters before opening the fourth with a 7-0 run capped by Larry Hughes' 3-pointer that made it 69-56.

Duncan took over, sparking a 16-8 run culminating with his three-point play that made it 77-72 with 4:41 to go. He also drew the sixth foul on Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

"I think Pop (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) called my number and gave me the opportunity (to score)," Duncan said. "I continued to attack and some shots went down. I missed some key free throws and that would have put us within range. That's the ballgame."

Both teams were wretched from the foul line. The Cavaliers were 18-of-30 while the Spurs were just 18-of-34, including 9-of-19 from Duncan.

San Antonio could get no closer until Tony Parker's free throw made it 83-79 at the 1:58 mark.

James countered that with a power move, blowing by defensive demon Bruce Bowen and Duncan for a layup to rebuild the lead to six with 1:37 remaining. The superstar swingman made 14-of-26 shots and added 10 rebounds.

"He came out and had a great night tonight," Bowen said of James. "You have to give credit where credit is due. But at the same time, this is what this game is about. You have guys that have phenomenal nights like LeBron did tonight and you just have to work over that."

Hughes scored 18 points for the Cavaliers, who shot 45 percent (33-of-73). Parker scored 21 points for the Spurs, who shot 42 precent (29-of-69).

"This is definitely a big win for us as a team, especially in San Antonio," Hughes said. "We are trying to have fun as a team and still maintain our focus. This season is very young but we are comfortable as a team (that) all we have to do is keep getting better."

Cleveland denied San Antonio's bid for a 10th straight home-opening win, which would have tied Phoenix and Minnesota for the third-longest streak in NBA history.

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