for this game

Veteran Spurs escape with commanding 3-0 lead

Jun 13, 2007 - 5:22 AM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- In a contest resembling a heavyweight bout, the San Antonio Spurs have the wobbly Cleveland Cavaliers on the ropes. But LeBron James may have taken a crucial hit that was overlooked.

Emerging victorious in a low-scoring battle of attrition, the Spurs amended their usual big three, leaning on Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Bruce Bowen, who combined for 44 points in a rugged 75-72 victory over James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Three of the NBA Finals.

San Antonio connected on 10-of-19 3-point shots - many of them of the backbreaking variety - en route to a 3-0 lead in this best-of-seven matchup. No team in NBA history has recovered from such a deficit.

"Well, everybody has to still believe," James said. "You know, it's the first of four games (to come back and win). We have to come out aggressive and just continue to play hard. We gave ourselves a chance to win tonight, and that's all we can ask for."

James collected 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Cavaliers, who will host Game Four on Sunday.

With one more win, the Spurs will become just the fourth team in league history to win four championships, joining the Boston Celtics (16), Los Angeles Lakers (14) and Chicago Bulls (six).

"It's going to take a lot of effort and a lot of energy," Parker said. "I know Cleveland, they have a lot of pride and they're going to play with a lot more energy in Game Four."

Parker, who scored 57 points in the first two games, had 17 points while Duncan added 14 and nine rebounds and Bowen 13 and nine for the Spurs.

Both teams looked out of sorts in the third quarter, combining for an NBA record-low 27 points in the period. San Antonio picked it up in the fourth, nailing a barrage of clutch shots, including two free throws by Duncan and a 3-pointer by Parker to stave off the surging Cavaliers.

"We set the Western world of basketball back 10 years," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich joked.

With Cleveland trailing, 72-70, Anderson Varejao passed up an open jumper and drove on Duncan, spinning and bricking a wild shot off the backboard with 10 seconds left.

"I was definitely going to get it back from Andy, but Andy made a good move," James said. "He just overshot it. I definitely wanted to try and get a good look at it or give my teammate a better look at it, but it was just miscommunication."

San Antonio's Manu Ginobili then made 1-of-2 free throws to for a 73-70 lead.

After James went in for a quick score, Ginobili made two more foul shots to make it 75-72 with 5.5 seconds left. The three free throws were his only points of the game.

"No, I wouldn't expect (to win with Ginobili playing poorly). That's why I think Bruce picked up a lot of slack," said Popovich, who lauded Bowen's production on 4-of-6 shooting. "But hopefully, Manu will have a better game on Thursday."

On the game's final possession, James looked as if he was grabbed by Bowen as he rose for a 3-pointer, which skimmed off the front rim.

Time expired as the teams fought for the rebound. James verbally sparred with referees before turning and walking angrily up the tunnel.

James did not want to talk about a foul on the shot.

"On the 3-pointer?" said James, who acted as if he was not angry about the play. "We had to go for a three, we were down three points. You know, it went in and came out."

When pressed further, James refused to blame Bowen for the miss.

"Incidental contact," he barked. "It didn't affect my shot. I had a good look at it and missed."

Surgically dismantling the Cavaliers in the first three quarters of Games One and Two, the three-time champion Spurs looked to be cruising to yet another title under Popovich.

San Antonio, however, had allowed Cleveland some hope by relaxing in the final period of the first two contests. But on their way home for the first NBA Finals home game in franchise history, the Cavaliers got a boost from another source.

They fed off a frenzied crowd throughout. Clad in maroon and rising to their feet every time James touched the ball, the fans tried to spur on the Cavaliers, who seemed genuinely energized by an obvious outpouring of support from a championship-starved city.

Hard-core Cleveland fans have suffered through "The Drive" authored by Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, a disheartening seven-game loss to the expansion Florida Marlins in the 1997 World Series and countless deplorable seasons by the Cavaliers.

But emerging as the face of the NBA, James has singlehandedly resurrected Cleveland's basketball scene in just four seasons.

He did not pay attention to the Cavaliers' poor history and doesn't want to dwell on what other squads have done when trailing in the Finals 3-0.

"We can't live on history, but at the same time we have dug ourselves a big hole and we know that," James said. "We have to come out and try to win four straight games."

Prior to Game Three, Cleveland coach Mike Brown implored his team to show the effort necessary to compete in the Finals. And his squad certainly played with passion, which was most noticeable on the boards.

"I thought the guys fought, they gave effort, but we did not make enough plays, especially down the stretch," Brown said.

The Cavaliers' biggest adjustment, though, was not their confidence. Cleveland placed hobbled guard Larry Hughes on the inactive list prior to the game and started emerging rookie Daniel Gibson in his place.

It was a long-awaited move by Brown, who refused to sit Hughes after he visibly limped through Game One.

"I had a gut feeling, and I went with starting Daniel," Brown said.

Gibson struggled, however, shooting just 1-of-10 from the field in a starting role.

"I just felt I didn't make shots," Gibson said. "I was comfortable shooting the ball. I was comfortable out there with the starting lineup. (The shots) just didn't go down for me."

Brown wasn't surprised.

"The team had a nice rhythm, starting Larry and bringing Daniel off the bench," he said. "Daniel had a nice rhythm also. That's why we wanted to keep it like that."

The became impossible when Hughes was deemed unable to perform during an examination before the game.

James, for his part, was aggressive, posting Spurs defensive specialist Bowen on several possessions and looking for his shot.

"I thought LeBron did a terrific job driving the ball," Brown said. "He had a couple go in and out which could have really helped us with the outcome of the game."

But the young superstar turned the ball over three times in the first period, continuing his sloppy play, and picked up his third foul midway through the second. With James out of the game, San Antonio went on a 10-0 run to end the half for a 40-38 lead.

"This is all about (the Spurs)," James said. "They played very good defense. They played elbows and boxes, and if I'm coming off someone that's there and I have to swing the ball to a teammate or come off a pick-and-roll, they're there again."


    Jun 12 11:44 PM
  • mark why is varejao taking that shot?!?

    Spurs vs. CavaliersJun 12 11:37 PM
  • 83
    RUWTbot Added 68 roots (Close Finish)

    Spurs vs. CavaliersJun 12 11:36 PM


    Jun 12 11:01 PM


    Jun 12 10:13 PM


    Jun 12 9:33 PM
  • 5
    mark Added 5 roots

    Spurs vs. CavaliersJun 12 6:06 PM
  • mark ditto here. maybe we can get the suns and warriors to play some pickup during halftime?

    Spurs vs. CavaliersJun 12 1:37 PM
  • pnutprez I really wanted the Cavs in this series, but it looks like the Spurs have 'em beat in this series.

    Spurs vs. CavaliersJun 12 9:56 AM