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Five quick takes after the San Antonio Spurs’ 110-94 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena…
1. The Kyrie Irving Effect continues to plague the Cavaliers. When LeBron James gets some well-deserved rest, Cleveland is simply not good offensively. With Irving in Boston, and with Kevin Love out for another month or so with his broken left hand, the Cavaliers simply don’t have a reliable second scorer and if the offense isn’t in transition mode, it grinds to a halt. After an 8-for-35 performance from the 3-point line in a home loss to Washington on Thursday, the Cavaliers (35-24) scattergunned their way to a 8-of-34 effort from 3 against the Spurs. “I don’t fault our effort,” James said. “Not tonight or the Washington game. I don’t fault our effort.”
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) February 25, 2018
2. The Spurs (36-25), who snapped a four-game skid as they finished a rugged six-game, 8,000-mile road trip, put this one away at the start of the fourth quarter. With James on the bench resting, San Antonio scored the first nine points to begin the final quarter, needing only 100 seconds to do so, extending what had been a 76-74 lead to an 85-74 advantage and was never headed.
3. Larry Nance Jr., wearing his dad’s No. 22 for the first time, had a solid first half, posting four points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot and was solid defensively against the Spurs’ focal point, LaMarcus Aldridge, helping to limit him (along with Tristan Thompson) to 2-of-8 shooting from the floor.
Like father, like son!
— NBA (@NBA) February 25, 2018
For some reason, Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue barely called his number after halftime as Nance Jr. — despite having the best plus-minus (minus-1) of any guy in Lue’s 10-man rotation — played only 15 minutes, which tied rookie Cedi Osman for the fewest of the rotation guys. Saddled to the bench for most of the second half, Nance Jr. had zero points, zero rebounds, one assist and one block in the final two quarters.
4. Cleveland’s starting backcourt of George Hill and J.R. Smith were awful. Hill (2 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block) and Smith (2 points, 2 rebounds) combined for four points, four rebounds, one assist and one block in 45 combined minutes. Throw in Osman (4 points on 1-6 shooting, 1 rebound) and starters not named James and Thompson (6 points, season-high 13 boards) accounted for eight points, five rebounds, one assist and one block in 50 minutes.
5. James, as per usual, attempted to put his teammates on his back, finishing with 33 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and a steal, shooting 14-of-25, in 40 minutes, marking the fifth time this season and the 37th occasion in his career he’s finished one board or one dime shy of a triple-double. The nine assists allowed him to pass Rod Strickland and move into 11th place on the NBA’s all-time assist list.
— NBA (@NBA) February 25, 2018
However, James also finished with a game-high six turnovers and his frustration, especially with the referees (he attempted only 4 free throws despite being in constant attack mode to the rack), picking up a technical foul. “There’s no reason I should be going to the line four times in a game when I drive 100 times to the paint and I’m getting hit and slapped and grabbed and whatever and what not,” he told reporters after the game. “We protect the shooter…. chicks dig the long ball.” For what it’s worth, the Cavaliers were whistled for 24 fouls, the Spurs 12.