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San Antonio vs. Cleveland, Final Score: Spurs offense goes ice cold in fourth quarter of 114-109 loss to Cavs

The Spurs fought back from an early double-digit deficit and played a tight second half, but a near six-minute stretch without a bucket doomed them.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at San Antonio Spurs Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

The San Antonio Spurs continued their losing ways on the second game of their seven-game homestand, this time to a vastly improved Cleveland Cavaliers squad. The Spurs once again got out to a slow start and faced a double-digit first half deficit for the fifth time in six games. Although they were able fight back and even gain the lead several times in the second half, their offense suddenly went ice cold for the final six minutes of the game, to leading the 114-109 loss — their fifth straight.

Dejounte Murray had his second 30-point scoring night in a row to go with 14 rebounds and 8 assists, but unfortunately he struggled to score when it really mattered during that late cold spell. Darius Garland led the Cavs with 32 points and was a nuisance all night.

Observations

  • The Cavs are a long, lanky team with three starters who are 7-footers in Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and Lauri Markkanen (not to mention Kevin Love off the bench). They got out to 15-6 start with their length bothering the Spurs’ offense (particularly in the paint where they missed several bunnies), but a good way to combat that is by hitting three-pointers to spread them out, so it was a perfect time for Doug McDermott to return from COVID protocols, as he hit two threes to get the Spurs offense going. Bryn Forbes provided a couple more, and it was a good thing they did because Cleveland hit five themselves in the first quarter and were generally sharper on both ends for the 35-26 lead.
  • Although he came off the bench in this one, Josh Primo was still part of the main rotation, which is something the home crowd hasn’t witnessed much, but even still the “Primo” chants have stopped. It could be because he didn’t anything spectacular (0 points, 2 rebounds), but it used to just take him walking to the scorer's table to check in to start the chants, and the crowd would hum in anticipation whenever he touched the ball. The more likely explanation is he has played and grown enough that fans now see him as a basketball player who is a part of the team, not just a fun novelty item for garbage time of blowout wins.
  • The Spurs continued to struggle for a while in the second quarter, getting down by as much as 11, but another three by Forbes triggered a 14-5 run — with seven of those points coming from Murray — to tie the game up for the first time since the scor,e was 0-0. Later a three by Keldon Johnson got the Spurs their first lead of the game, but on the Cavs’ final two possessions, Lamar Stevens was left wide open for a putback on the offensive rebound, and Darius Garland hit a halfcourt three to give them a 64-59 lead at the half.
  • When the Spurs had offensive success against the Cavs, it was when they played with pace against one of the slowest teams in the league. They did just that coming out of the locker room for the third quarter while defending better. It was mostly back-and-forth with multiple lead changes, but right after the Spurs got out to their largest lead of five on a Keita Bates-Diop three, the Cavs hit another buzzer-beater three — this time by Cedi Osman — to get the Spurs lead down to 86-84 heading into the fourth quarter.
  • Maybe it’s no coincidence that this comes after he missed the Knicks game with back spasms, but Jock Landale had his second rough three-point shooting night in a row, following up his 0-5 night from three against the Rockets with an 0-2 one tonight, with both shots missing badly. He had other contributions on the night, like a big-time and-one dunk during the Spurs’ second quarter run to get back into the game, but hopefully he finds his outside shooting form again soon. It’s the biggest attribute he brings to the team (especially considering his defense has a way to go).
  • The Spurs struggled to open the fourth quarter with Murray on the bench, getting outscored by seven points and the Cavs gaining a five-point lead. He finally returned with under seven minutes left, and the Spurs immediately tied things back up, but things went south from there. The score remained stuck at 104-103 Cleveland from the 5:37 mark all the way until a Markkanen dunk with 2:18 left, but the Spurs remained scoreless until a Lonnie Walker free throw with 59.8 sec left. A Johnson layup with 21.5 left with the Spurs down six and a meaningless Murray three with six seconds left were the Spurs’ only field goal in the final six minutes of the game, and that was enough for the Cavs to hold on for the win.
  • Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff spent a lot of the game bickering — no pun intended — and prodding the refs for more calls, which was ironic considering he had the refs’ favor all night, with a 24-13 advantage in both fouls called and in free throw attempts. The problem was his team only hit 14 of those free throws, which was a big reason the Spurs were able to keep it a game despite a high (for them) 15 turnovers.

For the Cavs fans’ perspective, visit Fear the Sword.

The Spurs will be right back at it tomorrow against the Los Angeles Clippers without Paul George (and Kawhi Leonard). Tipoff will be at 7:30 PM CT on Bally Sports SW-SA.