It was a classic game, the type of regular-season game you hope to see in the NBA Finals.
But was also the type of game the Cavaliers have been losing too much lately: Lots of hype, powerful opponent, the whole world watching.
Final score: Spurs 118, Cavs 115 Saturday in overtime at Quicken Loans Arena.
Things went back and forth most of the night — with the Cavs building a big first-quarter lead.
Then the Spurs went on a major run in the second. But the Cavs still led by a point at halftime.
Then the Spurs led by nine with 5:00 in regulation. Then LeBron James hit a 3-pointer from the pitcher’s mound at Progressive Field.
Then James threw the ball away late. And the Cavs went a miserable 12-of-22 shooting on free throws for the night.
Big game, quality opponent, and the defending champs just dropped the ball too often.
James’ blunder (and make no mistake, it was indeed his) came with 24 seconds left and the Cavs down three. He threw a bounce pass to the corner. No one was in the corner. The ball went out of bounds.
“We botched the play,” James told reporters. “(Coach Tyronn Lue) it up in the timeout and we as a group didn’t execute it the right way. We’ve got to be able to execute. Coming out of a timeout. We just sat down. We got our break.
“As a ballclub that’s trying to win a championship, we can’t have you go from a timeout to the court and forget what you’re supposed to do. It’s that simple.”
James’ teammates may not have remembered the play, but it was on James not to throw the ball to an empty area. He was mostly magnificent with 29 points and seven assists — but he also committed too many turnovers (seven) against a team that feasts on them.
Kawhi Leonard was simply magnificent with a career-high 41 for the Spurs (34-9), perhaps the league’s best club. After all, they now have defeated each of last year’s finalists on the road, including a 29-point pounding of Golden State on opening night.
Kyrie Irving also scored 29 for the Cavs, to go with a team-high nine assists. He probably should have had the ball in his hands even more in the game’s waning moments, particularly at the end of regulation.
Tristan Thompson added 14 and Kevin Love returned from back spasms to score 13. Those two combined for 23 rebounds, with Thompson pulling down 12.
”Great game. Anybody’s game,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters. ”Comes down to making shots. At the end of regulation we had some great shots that didn’t go down. In overtime they had some great shots that didn’t go down. It happens.”
The Spurs won minus aging injured starters Pau Gasol (hand) and Tony Parker (ankle).