Leonard shows LeBron who's boss
|SAN ANTONIO SPURS||CLEVELAND CAVALIERS|
Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points and left to a standing ovation yesterday morning (Singapore time) as the San Antonio Spurs humbled the NBA champions Cleveland Cavaliers 103-74, less than three weeks before the start of the play-offs.
The late-season glamour match-up in San Antonio fizzled as the Spurs took control in the first quarter, thanks not only to stars like Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, but also to stellar play from their reserves.
Adding to the misery for Cleveland, Cavs superstar LeBron James took an elbow just above the shoulder blades from Spurs' David Lee in the waning seconds of the third quarter that sent him slumping to the court.
He stayed there for several minutes before making his way to the bench and, with the Cavs trailing 81-58 going into the fouth quarter, didn't return to the court.
"I'm fine," he said after the game, vowing to be ready for the Cavs' next game at Chicago on Friday morning.
James scored 17 points before departing, but the Cavs endured their ninth defeat in 15 games this month.
The Cavaliers connected on just 37.3 per cent of their shots from the floor and, for the first time since November 2015, fell out of first place in the Eastern Conference as their record fell to 47-26. The Boston Celtics now lead the East at 48-26.
James said the seeding for the play-offs was not a major concern.
"I want us to be playing better basketball," James said, after the Cavs were held to a season-low points total. "That's what it comes down to.
"San Antonio are a well-oiled machine and they exploit anything you are not doing well," he added.
"At this point in the season, we just aren't playing good basketball.
"It's frustrating right now, but we are a veteran ball club and we will work through this and get things together.
"We've been like a rollercoaster all season long and we have to get things right."
The Spurs posted their fifth straight win and, at 57-16, pulled within two games of the Golden State Warriors in the race for the best record in the league and the Western Conference lead.
Pau Gasol scored 14 points and Manu Ginobili chipped in 12 for the Spurs, who host the Warriors tomorrow morning.
While the San Antonio crowd was geared up for a playoff-calibre contest, the Spurs soon took all suspense out of the proceedings, using a 17-8 run over the final half of the first quarter to take a 28-18 lead.
The Spurs' bench were big contributors, out-scoring Cleveland's bench 15-0 in the first quarter and 28-0 in the first half.
Cavs star Kyrie Irving scored just eight points and saw his run of 21 straight games with at least 20 points end.
"We had a really good night defensively - everything came from that," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. - AFP
- Sacramento 91 Memphis 90, Utah 108 New Orleans 100, Dallas 91 Oklahoma City 92, Toronto 131 Orlando 112, NY Knicks 109 Detroit 95.