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Parker Puts Spurs in Control of Series
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Overconfident after seizing a 29-point lead, the San Antonio Spurs squandered most of that edge Sunday before holding off Cleveland 103-92 in the National Basketball Association Finals.

Tony Parker scored 30 points, Manu Ginobili scored 25 and Tim Duncan added 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists as the Spurs seized a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, which shifts to Cleveland for game three on Tuesday.

The Spurs were in a position to humiliate the Cavaliers, leading 89-60 lead with 12:50 remaining, and instead allowed LeBron James and Cleveland's bench to spark a 27-6 run and rally within 95-87 with 4:15 to play before falling short.

"It was really disappointing," Ginobili said. "We played such a great game for three quarters. To see the team stop in the fourth, that was irresponsible of us. We have to finish the game. That was way too much.

"We got overconfident. We were feeling so good about ourselves and then we stopped moving the ball and let LeBron get open. We have to learn from that. We can't allow ourselves to do that in Cleveland or they are going to kill us."

The Spurs led 58-33 at half-time, then wasted one of the most dominant first-half thrashings in NBA Finals history.

James, benched with early foul trouble, scored 25 points on 9-of-21 shooting and led the comeback. But a 4-point play by Ginobili gave the Spurs a 101-89 lead with 2:24 remaining to finally subdue the stubborn Cavaliers.

"We don't want to get blown out," James said. "It becomes a pride thing when you are down so many points in the fourth quarter.

"We have to find a way to get our intensity up and carry what happened in the fourth quarter over into game three. We're definitely still confident. We have to come out and be more aggressive in game three."

Parker scored 16 first-half points while Duncan added 15 and Ginobili 12 to produce a 25-point half-time margin. No team in NBA Finals history recovered from so large a deficit to win, although the Spurs gave Cleveland a chance.

"They made a hell of a run in the fourth quarter. That's going to give them confidence going back to Cleveland," Parker said.

"When you get a big lead, you're not playing with the same intensity. You're not going for loose balls. We let them outwork us. We slowed down too much in the fourth quarter. We didn't play with the same aggressiveness."

Spurs coach Greg Popovich blamed himself for keeping Duncan and Parker resting too long on the bench as Cleveland rallied.

"It's always a challenge," Popovich said. "In the fourth quarter, LeBron got away from us. My substitution pattern was poor and slow. A couple defenses I called were inappropriate. All those things combined gave us the problems."

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown was pleased his team never quit.

"Our guys didn't quit," Brown said. "The thing I'm excited about is we finally brought some effort and aggression and showed some poise and that's what have to continue to do."

James went to the bench after committing two fouls in the first 2:55 and Cleveland never recovered. James, scoreless in the first half of game one, was 4-of-11 from the field and 5-of-9 on free throws in a woeful first half.

"It's not a good thing for me," James said. "I can't remember the last time I didn't play 40-plus minutes. Me being in early foul trouble wasn't good."

The Spurs seek their fourth crown in nine years. The Cavaliers, in their first NBA Finals, seek Cleveland's first major sports title since 1964 but also could be the first Finals sweep victim since New Jersey in 2002.

(China Daily via AFP June 12, 2007)

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