The San Antonio Spurs, playing their best defense when it
matters most, moved to the brink of a fourth National Basketball
Association title in nine years on Tuesday by edging Cleveland
Sparked by reserves on a night when stars struggled, the Spurs
seized a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Finals and can complete
a sweep by winning game four here on Thursday evening local time.
No team in NBA history has won a series after trailing 3-0.
San Antonio's Tony Parker scored 17 points while Tim Duncan
added 14 points and nine rebounds. Manu Ginobili, 0-for-7 from the
field, hit his only points on three free throws in the last 10.4
seconds to create the final margin.
"I'd think Tony, Manu and Timmy would have to be great to win
these games but that's not going to happen all the time," Spurs
coach Gregg Popovich said. "We ended up being the fortunate team at
the end. We hung in there. We won."
LeBron James scored 12 of his 25 points in the final quarter but
it was not enough to rescue the Cavaliers, who had 12 points and 18
rebounds from center Zydrunas Ilgauskas but hit only 29-of-79 shots
from the field.
"These three games, it's the best defense we've played all
season. It's the best defense we've had in the playoffs and it has
been back-to-back-to-back," Popovich said.
The Spurs made 10-of-19 3-point shots while Cleveland was only
3-of-19 from beyond the arc, the last miss by James on the final
"It went in and came out," James said. "I had a good look at it
and I missed."
The teams matched the second-fewest combined points in any NBA
Finals game, barely beating the record low of 145 from Syracuse and
Fort Wayne in 1955.
"We set the western world of offensive basketball back 10
years," Popovich said.
They also combined to equal the lowest-scoring quarter in NBA
Finals history by producing only 27 points in the third period, the
Spurs outscoring the Cavaliers 15-12 to stretch their lead to 55-50
entering the final period.
James refused to surrender but it would take one of the greatest
comebacks in US sports history to secure Cleveland's first title in
any sport since 1964.
"Everybody has to still believe," James said. "We dug ourselves
a big hole. We have to come out aggressive and continue to play
hard. We gave ourselves a chance to win. That's all we can ask for.
We have to try to win four straight."
The Cavaliers fell to 7-2 at home in the playoffs while the
Spurs rose to 6-2 on the road in the playoffs.
"Our guys fought. They gave effort. But they did not make enough
plays down the stretch to win the game," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown
Bruce Bowen contributed 13 points and nine rebounds for the
Spurs in addition to tight defense guarding James.
"Bruce definitely kept them in the game hitting big threes,"
James said. "It was definitely good for them because Manu
struggled, Tony struggled mightily and Tim Duncan didn't shoot the
In a pivotal stretch over the last 2:16 of the third quarter and
the first 2:30 of the fourth, the Spurs went on a 12-2 run ignited
by two Brent Barry 3-pointers and Bowen's fourth 3-pointer of the
game to take a 60-50 lead.
(China Daily via AFP June 14, 2007)