These Spurs don’t quit. Somehow, someway, they have now won their third game in a row after a 1-16 stretch of play, this time against the much-improved Cleveland Cavaliers. After dominating most of the first three quarters to get out to a 19-point lead, the young Spurs did what they are prone to do against better teams and started falling apart in the fourth. The Cavs mounted a furious comeback and got within a point with a chance to win it at the buzzer, but they missed on two good chances, and the Spurs held on for the 112-111 win.
Josh Richardson led four Spurs in double figures with 24 points off the bench, and Donovan Mitchell led the Cavs with 28 points.
- Jeremy Sochan (quad) and Keldon Johnson (stomach flu) were both game-time decisions heading into the game, and both ended up playing. Sochan came off the bench for the first time in his career due to being on a minutes restriction, and Isaiah Roby got the start. Roby looked confident early, showing no fear of the Cavs’ two seven footers with a couple of driving layups and a jumper from the free throw line. Meanwhile, Sochan looked fast and springy in his return, if a little rusty.
- The Spurs used 12 second chance points off 8 offensive rebounds to take a 29-25 lead after the first quarter, which is pretty impressive against a club that starts Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. Mitchell was the main source of points for the Cavs in the quarter with 10 (two of which shouldn’t have counted since they came off a travel.)
- Referee Michael Smith got an earful from Gregg Popovich on two straight possessions in the first quarter after he felt Johnson was fouled on a corner three-point attempt right in front of the Spurs bench. He spent the next several possessions on the other sideline of the court. I think there were several times both teams felt like the refs had on tinted glasses during the first half. There were several “how did they miss that” moments on both sides. (And it only got worse in the second.)
- After being sick all day, it took until the second quarter for Johnson to start finding himself, but as his energy level picked up, the Spurs kept building their lead. He shot 4-4 in the quarter for 10 points, and the Cavs called a timeout after 6 minutes following a Spurs 14-0 run. The run extended to 20-2 for the Spurs’ largest lead of 18 before Cavs finally started playing them even again, and they settled for a 65-49 lead at the break.
- Ever since he returned from injury, Josh Richardson seems to have returned to the form he showed when he first arrived in San Antonio back in February. He’s hitting his threes, working more within the flow of the offense instead of playing iso-ball, and is a sparkplug off the bench. Tonight, he had 24 points on 9-13 shooting, 5-7 from three.
- There was some confusion at halftime after it was announced that the video review center had overturned a defensive goaltending call on a Johnson bucket in the second quarter (which seems impossible considering Mobley’s block came after the ball hit the glass), but the Spurs still had 65 points, and the call remained on official play-by-plays. Maybe it was just announced wrong, and Secaucus had actually confirmed the call?
- The Cavs came out of halftime with more purpose and quickly closed the lead to 10 points, but the Spurs refused to give in. They kept crashing the boards and had an answer every time Cleveland threatened go on a run. They pushed the lead back out to a game-high 19 points a few times in the final moments of the third quarter, but a Darius Garland three just before the buzzer cut their lead to 14, 92-78, heading into the fourth.
- The Cavs opened the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run, and by extension from the end of the third a 12-0 run, forcing a quick Pop timeout with their lead cut to 7. The Spurs responded with s 6-2 run to settle things down a bit. Both teams continued to trade baskets and mini-runs, with the lead fluctuating between four and 10 points most of the way. The final moments were chaos with the refs calling every 50-50 play the Cavs way, and Zach Collins couldn’t not commit a foul if his life depended on it before fouling out with 38 second left. (All were arguably legit but ones “stars” probably don’t get called for in crunch time of a heated game.) In the final series, Mobley missed a free throw to keep the Spurs lead at one, Tre Jones missed a layup on the other end, and in a mad scramble on the final possession, Johnson blocked Mitchell before the ball got out to Darius Garland for an open three-point attempt in the corner at the buzzer. Fortunately, he missed, and the Spurs got another wild win, 112-111.
- The Spurs are now 6-2 against the East, and it’s not like they’ve been playing the lightweights. Who needs Victor Wembanyama when all they need to do is move to the Eastern Conference to be contenders?
For the Cavs fans’ perspective, visit Fear the Sword.
The Spurs return to the AT&T Center on Wednesday to take on the Portland Trail Blazers. Tip-off will be at 7:00 PM CT on CW35.