SPURS OVER­RUN CAVA­LIERS

San An­to­nio drop Cleve­land to se­cond in East, West­brook’s Thun­der roar back

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LOS AN­GE­LES

KAWHI Leonard scored 25 points and left to a stand­ing ova­tion Mon­day as the San An­to­nio Spurs hum­bled the NBA cham­pion Cleve­land Cava­liers 103-74 less than three weeks be­fore the start of the play­offs.

The late-sea­son glam­our match-up in San An­to­nio fiz­zled as the Spurs took con­trol in the first quar­ter thanks not only through 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 scary 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.

James scored 17 points be­fore de­part­ing, but the Cavs en­dured their ninth de­feat in 15 games in March.

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.

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 on Wed­nes­day.

While the San An­to­nio crowed was geared up for a play­off-cal­iber 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.

Ok­la­homa City’s Russell West­brook drained a pull-up jump shot with 7.1 sec­onds re­main­ing to cap the Thun­der’s thrilling come­back for a 92-91 vic­tory over the Mav­er­icks in Dal­las.

West­brook scored 37 points – 16 of them in the fourth quar­ter – with 13 re­bounds and 10 as­sists for his third straight triple-dou­ble and his 37th of the sea­son.

He needs four more triple-dou­bles to tie Os­car Robert­son’s sin­gle-sea­son record of 41 set in 1961-62.

Although Ok­la­homa City were down much of the contest, they fin­ished on a 14-0 scor­ing run – West­brook post­ing a dozen points in the surge to vic­tory.

Else­where, the play­off-bound Toronto Rap­tors posted their sixth straight vic­tory, 131-112 over the Or­lando Magic.

The New York Knicks dealt the Detroit Pis­tons’ play­off hopes a blow with a 109-95 vic­tory.

The de­feat dropped the Pis­tons 1 1/2 games be­hind the Mi­ami Heat for the eighth and fi­nal

play­off spot in the East. AFP

EPA PIC

Cava­liers’ J.R. Smith (left) tries to block a dunk by Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard in their NBA game on Mon­day.

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