for this game

Spurs ride big first half to another win vs. Cavs

Jun 11, 2007 - 5:06 AM SAN ANTONIO (Ticker) -- "King James"? Please. LeBron James is merely a figurehead. The true autocrats of the NBA are the San Antonio Spurs, who have a dynasty in the making.

Looking razor-sharp on offense and ruthless on defense in a virtually perfect first half, the Spurs staggered James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, 103-92, on Sunday, opening a commanding 2-0 lead in what is starting to look like a terribly mismatched NBA Finals.

It was the usual suspects for the Spurs, who survived another annoying case of the fourth-quarter blahs. They have won eight of their last nine playoff games and are two wins away from their fourth title in nine years. This one might be their easiest yet.

"We know we can play harder," a discouraged James said.

"Sometimes I don't like to have a 20-point lead," said Spurs guard Tony Parker, who has the inside track on the Finals MVP. "I'm not going to complain; I'll take it."

The star of Game One, Parker again was unstoppable with 30 points on 13-of-20 shooting, most of them layups. Three-time Finals MVP Tim Duncan again was overwhelming with 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

And when the Cavaliers made a frenetic but fruitless late push, supersub Manu Ginobili stopped it by baiting Daniel Gibson with a four-point play for a 101-89 lead with 2:24 to go. Ginobili scored 25 points.

"I was feeling good with my shot, so when I saw the rotation was a little late, I didn't hesitate," Ginobili said.

The terrific trio combined for 43 points in the first half, when San Antonio shot a blistering 55 percent (21-of-38) from the field, battered the boards for a 30-19 advantage and held the Cavaliers to 11 baskets, roaring to a 58-33 lead.

"We're still playing the same way," Parker said. "I just think we're doing a better job to take turns, and we're moving the ball great and we're just taking great shots."

But it was more than the three-headed monster for the Spurs, who put on a stunning display of two-way basketball in the first half. Ageless Robert Horry, tracking his seventh championship ring, was everywhere on defense, collecting nine rebounds, three blocks and a handful of disruptive deflections.

"Robert was our star tonight," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "When somebody comes off the bench and does what Robert did at both ends of the floor, it was fantastic."

And proud father Bruce Bowen may have been asking James, "Who's your daddy?" Bowen did another effective job of frustrating the superstar swingman, who created some of his own problems with early foul trouble and received another hard lesson in why basketball is a team game.

"We understand he's a talented player," Bowen said. "And because he's talented, he requires the attention he's receiving."

James tried to shed the shackles he displayed in Game One, coming out much more aggressive - and paying for it with a pair of fouls less than three minutes into the contest. Cavaliers coach Mike Brown went by the book and sat his superstar, a questionable decision given the urgency of the situation.

"I did not want to do that to our team nor to LeBron that early in the game because I knew we had a ways to go," Brown said.

With James on the bench, the Cavaliers looked lost, digging themselves a 28-13 hole. They weren't much better when he returned in the second period, either, falling behind by 28 points in one of the worst first halves in Finals history.

"It was not a good thing for me," James said. "I can't remember the last time I didn't play 40-plus minutes. ... It definitely hurt us."

Among James' lowlights were a traveling violation in transition and an embarrassing free throw that drew no iron but plenty of derisive jeers from the 18,797 at the AT&T Center.

James scored 25 points, making 9-of-21 shots and committing six more turnovers. He can take solace in the fact that he forced the Spurs to finish the game, but not much else.

"I think we realized it was a pride thing," James said.

"In the fourth, LeBron turned the tables and got away from us," Popovich admitted.

Daniel Gibson scored 15 points for Cleveland, which used a 25-6 run to close within eight points in the fourth quarter. But it was too little, too late.

If we are all witnesses, it may be to a murder. Game Three is Tuesday in Cleveland.

"Our effort has to be better, our aggression has to be higher, and we've got to be able to do it and still be poised in the same breath," Brown said. "We've got to bring the juice, and right now we're not."

The biggest adjustments in a series are made between Games One and Two, and the belief was that the Cavs had plenty to make. But Brown indicated otherwise before the game.

"I don't change a lot," he said. "I try to find a rhythm in something and then stick with it."

James had no rhythm in Game One, often settling for jumpers. He scored Cleveland's first basket on a follow shot, but was sitting on the bench just over two minutes later after committing a pair of fouls on Duncan.

"I had to sit him," Brown said. "You don't ever want to have to sit him with nine minutes left in the first quarter. But it is what it is."

With "The King" off the floor, the Cavs looked like pawns as the Spurs took control of the game, opening a 16-6 lead on a transition layup by the speedy Parker. Cleveland surged back without its star, but San Antonio - with Duncan on the bench - replied with a 12-0 burst fueled by Ginobili, building the bulge to 28-13.

James and Duncan both returned at the start of the second quarter, but only one star was effective. James missed a jumper and committed a turnover, while Duncan had a pair of buckets and a free throw that had the Spurs doubling up on the Cavs, 38-19, at the TV timeout.

Speaking of TV, when the series finale of "The Sopranos" ended at 10 p.m. EDT, much of America hit the remote and saw San Antonio whacking Cleveland by the telling score of 45-26. No one could be faulted for clicking again.


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    Cavaliers vs. SpursJun 10 10:37 AM