Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Spurs defeat Cavaliers, 4-1, repeat as champions.

The NBA Finals. Where Kawhi Leonard versus LeBron James happens.

It was only fitting that LeBron James stand in the way of the Spurs' "Quest for Four" championships in five seasons, with one of them belonging to the Miami Heat then-led by 'King James', the same team that bowed out to those same Spurs the next season. With LeBron back in Cleveland, the history came with it, along with the bad blood and passion to best the other once again. What happened would lead to a passing of the torch depending on who you talk to, a disappointed 'King', a spectacle of marksmanship by one of the league's best shooters before calling it a career, and a grand deal of excitement throughout.

Game 1 belonged to the Spurs by a margin of 8 points, 110-102.

Despite a slow start, San Antonio caught up to the Cavaliers even with Tony Parker struggling. Manu Ginobili dunked the ball so hard that it shocked the Spurs fans, and two quick fouls by Kevin Love made them cheer again. Ginobili matched a 3PTer by Mo Williams and Kawhi Leonard did the same, nailing down a dunk and a 3PTer of his own to take the lead.

Providing some humor, both teams missed layups but Danny Green got serious and made three consecutive long balls courtesy of sweet screens set by the Spurs. A 10PT lead was earned after Tony Parker stole the ball from Kyrie Irving and dished it to Leonard for another thunderous throwdown.

 LeBron James brought the Cavaliers back within a 65-69 deficit but Tony Parker made his first shot and got rolling, thanks to some screens by Boris Diaw. He had 17 points soon and then Diaw blocked Irving for good measure. This led to a 3PTer by Ray Allen to spark an 11-2 swing, 81-67, but a run by Cleveland cut it to 6 in the final period.

Kawhi Leonard blocked 'The King' at the rim, but Tim Duncan was blocked by Kevin Love, who then missed a 3, and then LeBron was blocked again but this time by Tyrus Thomas. Kawhi Leonard got a dunk afterward, only to be answered by a 3 from James.

It was 88-96 with 4 minutes left to go, as Cavaliers cut the lead to 5 after two free throws were made by Irving and an inbound pass was stolen by LeBron for an easy stuff. Leonard responded with a long ball of his own and LeBron put too much behind a layup as the ball rolled out, only for Leonard to make one over the big man Anderson Varejao. Kawhi made another 3, followed by a layup for Shawn Marion and Danny Green stole a pass to Iman Shumpert, leading to yet another 3 by Leonard.

106-93, only for a 5-0 run by the Cavaliers, as a layup success resulted in James crashing to the floor and being lost on the ensuing play for San Antonio. A three-pointer by Irving rattled out thereafter, but Varejao was there for the tip-in. The lead was cut to 6 as Ray Allen and Danny Green both miss on the other end to increase the lead.

Shumpert would be blocked by Green, only for the ball to bounce back to Irving, who passed to Love, yet the 3-PT shot wouldn't drop for him. Varejao missed the hook shot off the rebound, and a fast break led to Shawn Marion's dunk for an 8 point lead. Tony Parker was fouled next and he iced this opening showdown at the charity stripe.

LeBron James had 25 points and 5 steals. Iman Shumpert had 19 points. Kyrie had only 17 points/9 assists on an icky 5-20 shooting display. Varejao had 13 & 11. JR Smith and Mo Williams combined for 18 points but Kevin Love was 0-4 on the floor and made just one free throw.

Kawhi Leonard matched LeBron's 25 points, Ginobili had 20 points with 5 assists, Parker had 19 despite the slow start, Green had 11, Allen had 9 and Duncan had 8&9. Diaw had 7 points and 3 blocks.

In Game 2, the Spurs played well out the gate, with the Cavs struggling, Kyrie missing at the rim due to SA's persistent defense. In a wild moment, Tony Parker made a block on LeBron.

It was 50-48 at the half, with Parker playing strong inside for 16 early points. LeBron James got a dunk past Kawhi Leonard's outstretched arm, and Tim Duncan got his 4th foul too soon. As a result, Anderson Varejao got 22 points as Cleveland took a 74-68 advantage, only for SA to go on a 6-0 run to weather the storm.

Iman Shumpert and Danny Green exchanged three-pointers, and then Danny Green made 4 more. A dunk by Kawhi Leonard gave the defending champions a 97-96 lead. Tony Parker would have the play of the game with a double-clutch layup over LeBron down low, giving 'the King' his 4th foul. A 19-6 run for San Antonio followed as the game fell out of reach. The Cavaliers tried to foul desperately but 'Spur-fection' led to a pass to Green who buried another 3PTer.

Tony Parker had 22 points and an excellent 16 assists, but Danny Green had 27 points and 7 threes. Kawhi had 17, Duncan had 12&11 despite foul trouble and Ray Allen had 21 points.

The Cavaliers finally struck back and snatched a 123-120 victory, despite a seemingly-flawless start for the Spurs. A 15-6 sparked this chance for Cleveland as SA's scoring stalled. The Spurs would have to play catch-up, and they never did.
But they had a shot, only for Green to miss a would-be game-tying 3 at the buzzer. Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw had awful showings, despite 28 points by Tony Parker with 16 assists. Kawhi Leonard had 30 points, Green had 19, but LeBron finally put the hammer down with 31 points, followed by Shumpert's 21, Irving's 22, Varejao's 15 and Kevin Love's double-double (14pts/10rebounds).

Oh, did the Spurs retaliate!

The defending champions won Game 4 big, 131-112. Kevin Love was knocked to the floor thanks to Tyrus Thomas' big dunk off a screen, and a steal by Leonard led to a dunk over LeBron. The 3rd quarter ended after Ray Allen made a 3PTer at the buzzer. A mountainous run by the Spurs followed in the final quarter, with Leonard earning a triple-double and the Allen-Green tandem crashing in deep shots. The Spurs won the 4th 39-27. Kawhi Leonard had 27 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 4 steals. Ray Allen had 25 points on 7 three-pointers, Ginobili had 23 points, and Parker had 19 points with 13 assists. In the loss, James had 24 points/7 assists/7 rebounds (falling short to Leonard's stat line), Varejao had 20 points with 17 rebounds, Shumpert had 19 points, Kyrie Irving had 17 points with 12 assists, Tristan Thompson had 14 points with 10 rebounds, but Kevin Love went 1-6 from the floor.

Then the Ray Allen spectacle happened. The Spurs may have won only by 2 points (123-121), but they won in memorable fashion in more ways than one. The same player that burned the Spurs in Game 6 and helped steal a championship with the Heat not long ago scorched the Cavaliers. Ray Allen made eleven three-point shots in Game 5, shooting from another stratosphere and pushing the James-Irving-Love hydra into overdrive, then into submission.

The Spurs held a close lead late, but LeBron would not be denied a chance to save this series for Cleveland, cutting the lead to 2 and forcing a miss by San Antonio. Cleveland ball, 6 seconds left. Coach Popovich instructs the Spurs to foul the Cavaliers before they can take a shot, and it works.

 Kyrie Iving made both free throws, tying the game but the Spurs now have fate in their hands. Immense defensive pressure by the Cavaliers forces the ball out of volcanic Ray Allen's grasp, who passes it to Kawhi Leonard, who hurriedly elevates over LeBron James and somehow sends the Cavaliers home as the ball goes through the net after a long 2PTer and the buzzer sounds the end.

Winning the championship for San Antonio, Kawhi Leonard established himself as the new leader of this team, including a spin move on LeBron that led to a dunk earlier in the game. Tony Parker would be named Finals MVP by a hair, scoring 20 points/6 rebounds/8 assists in this concluding game. Ray Allen stopped at 33 points. Ginobili had 18 points and 9 assists, sending a marvelous stepback 3 through Cleveland's eyes late in the 4th.

Despite being within 2-5 points for the duration of the 4th quarter, the Cavaliers fell behind 18 pts from LeBron James, 22 points and 10 assists from Kyrie Irving, 19 points and 10 rebounds from a resilient Kevin Love, 20 points and 17 rebounds from Tristan Thompson and 19 points from Iman Shumpert.

Spurs sweep Thunder, 4-0, en route to the NBA Finals.

The Spurs stormed into the western conference finals in a shootout with the OKC Thunder, led by MVP Kevin Durant, but it was Kawhi Leonard that gave an exemplary performance with 27 points.
A high-scoring affair, the Spurs tested different lineups throughout the game, which luckily did not cause trouble as they opened the game on an 8-1 run, and ultimately won this first strike 132-121 on their home court. Clearly, the Spurs can't allow 121 points every night.

Ray Allen's shot was off, but an aggressive Tony Parker (17 points) and a solid team effort made up for it. Danny Green had 15 points, prospect Ray MacCallum had 13 points on three long balls, Ginobili had 13 points, Tim Duncan had 12 & 7 rebounds and "AK" had 11 points.

In the losing effort, not helped by poor shooting by Anthony Morrow and Dion Waiters, Russell Westbrook had 15 points (6-13) as he struggled from a tenacious double-team by the Spurs. The MVP, Kevin Durant, had 21 points on 8-14 shooting but played somewhat timidly and heated up too late in the game. Big man Enes Kanter had 18 points and 14 rebounds, but was just 6-18 from the floor down low and Serge Ibaka had a quiet night.

In Game 2, the Spurs did a better job at containing OKC's scoring, limited them to only 105 points, to SA's 117 victorious ones, despite the first quarter being a shot-for-shot affair. Russell Westbrook dashed around the double teams all night long and Kevin Durant got some fast break jams. But on the other end, this intensity was matched by Duncan, Allen and Parker and especially by Kawhi who also can throw it down.

In a tie game late, Ray Allen got a steal on Westbrook which led to an 8-0 run, capped by a Danny Green three-pointer for a 10 point lead, 109-99, and a 32-22 scoring advantage in an otherwise tight contest.

Westbrook had 23 points and 8 assists, Durant had only 20 (on 9-11 shooting) but again was hesitant to take over the game, and Waiters was 4-12 again. Meanwhile, Tony Parker had 24 points and 6 assists, Ray Allen had 20 points, Leonard had 19, Duncan had 16 and Green had 12. Tyrus Thomas had 10 points and 7 rebounds.

A new idea put Ray Allen on Russell Westbrook, and it was better as Westbrook managed only 18 points with 13 assists. Kawhi Leonard had another strong game with 28 points and 6 three-pointers, outdoing Danny Green's 16pts and 4 three-point bombs. However, Kawhi and Duncan fell into foul trouble which caused substitutions and too many easy trips to the FT line for OKC.

However, Tyrus Thomas played well with extended time, making several mid range jumpshots to help the cause, and Kawhi Leonard showed flashes of greatness with a scrambled play that led to a fadeaway 3PTer and two consecutive 3s that sparked a run for San Antonio. On the other end of the court, OKC shot a dreadful 37% and the 4th quarter began with a wide open miss by the MVP, Kevin Durant (held to a meager 15 points). Tyrus Thomas had 13 points and 15 rebounds for the champs.

Manu Ginobili had 13 points and 7 assists, Tony Parker had 12 points with 10 assists, Tim Duncan had 13 points with 8 rebounds. In the losing effort, Dion Waiters had 18 points, Enes Kanter had 13&10, but the Spurs won this one big, 123-98, in what would prove to be a deafening loss at home for the Thunder.

Game 4 was the death knell for the MVP-led team, as OKC fell 112-104 at home, despite a sloppy opening quarter by the champs. The Thunder held a 28-19 lead after one, but a 21-6 run by SA all but ended the game from thereon. Back to back blocks by Green and Leonard forced shot clock violations as the 3s began to fall for SA; one play included a trio of blocks which led to a 3 for Ray Allen on the other end.

 Kawhi Leonard had 33 points, including an and-1 play on Durant. Danny Green blocked Westbrook at the rim for the finishing touches. There was just a lid on the basket for the Thunder. A 13-5 run in the 3rd gave SA a 16 point lead after a dunk and a 3 by Leonard, then another mighty 11-3 run for a 96-77 advantage.

Despite a block on the MVP by Andrei Kirilenko, the Thunder rallied one last time to cut the lead to 8, only for Ginobili to drop a tomahawk dunk and raise it back to 10, then splash home a three in the final minute. The Thunder missed free throws, put-back attempts, just about everything in this final game. But Westbrook did manage to score OKC's 100th point in the game.

Ray Allen had 19 points from a handful of threes from the team's 20 total bombs, Manu had 13 with 5 assists, Parker had 12 on four three-pointers, Green had 14, Duncan had 9&5, Andrei Kirilenko had 3 of SA's 14 total blocks, and Westbrook scored 32 points with 8 assists (13-14 FTs). Durant had only 16 points (6-14) and Ibaka was only a force on the glass with 14 rebounds. Waiters had 18.

Spurs sweep Clippers, 4-0, but it was close.

The defending champions found themselves in a close game with the Los Angeles Clippers to kick off the semi-finals of the western conference playoffs. They had to wait until the 4th quarter, but take a 37-21 scoring advantage they did and win well ahead, 125-103 at home.

SA fed off the home crowd as Danny Green ignited for another huge game with 31 points from 8 three-pointers. Kawhi Leonard was close behind with 24 points and 2 blocks. Tony Parker had 19 points with 6 assists, running the offense.

In the losing effort, Chris Paul had 13 assists but only 10 points (4-12 shooting). In general the Clippers did not score well, as Jamaal Crawford struggled (4-10) and so did Josh Smith (5-14). Only Paul Pierce, a bonafide scorer, had a good game with 21 points. Also, the team was without Blake Griffin, who is nursing an injury.

Blake Griffin also missed Game 2, which went to San Antonio as well, winning 115-106. But Chris Paul distributed more heartily with 16 assists, as the Spurs defense allowed way too many alley oops inside. Paul Pierce had another 21 points, Smith & DeAndre Jordan both had 19 points (off those oops), combining for 23 rebounds. This, plus some shooting woes by SA's stars, made for a close affair.

Tony Parker was on fire in the 3rd quarter, however, and Kawhi made shots in the clutch when it mattered. A ballsy 3 by Tony Parker claimed the lead, who was fouled by CP3 afterward and made the free throws. This was capped by a 3 for Danny Green off a Tim Duncan screen, putting the Spurs up by 8 in the final minute. Parker had 30 points, Kawhi had 24 and Green nailed 4 from deep.

The Spurs won a considerably closer Game 3, with a returning Blake Griffin, who got early points off alley oops, but it was too late to recover. The champs won 112-107, to take a 3-0 lead. Kawhi Leonard had 31 points, Manu Ginobili had 21, as did Tony Parker but also with 8 assists. Tyrus Thomas played strong off the bench with 9 points and a clutch block on Chris Paul (15 points/8 assists/9 turnovers).
Blake Griffin did play well, though, with 25 points and 8 rebounds. Paul Pierce also had 25 points, but went 0-3 from distance, including a shot late that killed LA's hopes of a comeback. The Spurs went on a 10-0 run, led at halftime and beat the Clippers with savvy team play, using pick and rolls and nailing the long ball.

In the final Game 4, Tyrus Thomas started at Center for the Spurs but Tony Parker scored its first 11 points. Boris Diaw took note and had 11 early points from three long balls. The Clippers managed to take a lead, but Spurs responded with a 15-6 run. Then Danny Green did his thing: totaling 6 three-pointers.

Chris Paul made a shot from very deep to make it a two point game, but too many mistakes had led to easy points for San Antonio and a harder path for LA to overcome. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul both had 5 fouls in the final minutes, and despite Tim Duncan missing a shot over Griffin in the post, it was Paul that got whistled for a foul on Parker. Without its leader, Paul Pierce nailed a clutch 3 over Kirilenko to make it just a one point contest, but Manu Ginobili made two free throws and Lance Stephenson (who played hero in LA's victory over the Spurs for SA's first home loss earlier this season) missed a 3 at the buzzer that would've won the game.

 Both teams were separated by only 4 points in this game per quarter scoring, epitomizing how contentious and unpredictable this series was and how it might've easily had a different outcome.

 [ 32-30 (SA) | 29-28 (SA) | 31-31 | 28-28]

Danny Green had 24 points, Parker had 18 points, Manu had 14 with 5 assists as did Kawhi Leonard. Tyrus Thomas had 11 points and 8 rebounds (earning that starting role), and Duncan had 10&9.

In the defeat, Stephenson had 22 points, Griffin had 16 points with 11 rebounds and Chris Paul had 11 assists with 15 points. DeAndre Jordan had 13 points and a primal 20 rebounds and Paul Pierce had 10 points with 6 rebounds.

It took 6 games, but the Spurs defeat Pelicans, 4-2.

In a surprisingly close first game, the Spurs won 91-89. The hungry Pelicans would not lay down after a hot start by the Spurs. San Antonio struggled with turnovers and fouls as the game went on, allowing New Orleans to gain momentum. Eric Gordon made a shot through a foul for a 39-44 lead at halftime.

The Spurs regained a 63-60 lead after the 3rd quarter, with improved defense, but shots still refused to fall, as Pelicans took a 9-0 run. A three-pointer by Tony Parker held them off, but another small burst gave New Orleans a 4-pt lead.

Clutch play by Kawhi Leonard regained the lead, despite a hot Eric Gordon who cut the lead to just a point. New Orleans had three shots on the final possession, but missed them all in the loss. Kawhi Leonard had 32 points over Eric Gordon's efficient 25. Danny Green and Ray Allen struggled for the Spurs, but so did the returning Anthony Davis with only 5 points and 9 rebounds against Tim Duncan's 12 points.

The Spurs won 94-86 in Game 2, courtesy of a better start than Game 1. However, their shooters still struggled and Tim Duncan did, saved only by Anthony Davis still working out the kinks against the Spurs' tough defense. Danny Green focused on Eric Gordon, ordered by Coach Pop to not let him get hot again.

Ray Allen did make a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer and the Spurs won the 3rd quarter as well. Allen would make 21 points despite the struggle to score from deep and Andrei Kirilenko stepped up with 21 points and 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Jrue Holiday emerged as another threat with 25 points, but Eric Gordon was held to only 11 points.

The Pelicans would win Game 3, 117-111 in New Orleans, despite 12 early points by Tim Duncan. The Spurs as a team lost their rhythm. A massive 20-4 run by the Pelicans put SA down by 15. Poor shooting made it possible, and Jrue Holiday surged to 28 points and getting foul calls to SA's chagrin.

The Spurs went on a huge run to cut the lead to only 5 to begin the 4th quarter, but Tiago Splitter & Tim Duncan both missed easy shots at the basket that would've tied the game. Defense by Green cut the lead to 3, but a defensive breakdown led to an open three-pointer for Eric Gordon. A heartbreaking loss despite a huge comeback for San Antonio, as the Pelicans made this a series.

Anthony Davis had 12 points and 17 rebounds, Eric Gordon had 19 points. Duncan scored only 7 more points after his 12 point breakout, and Kawhi & Parker combined for just 34 points.

The Spurs had a meltdown in the 4th quarter of Game 4, despite playing their best before that point. The Pelicans rallied to a 10-pt lead as a result and Kawhi Leonard fouled out. Tyreke Evans recuperated from injury for 25 points/11 rebounds/5 assists as the Spurs defense fell apart, losing the quarter 37-25 and losing the game.

Anthony Davis had 14 points and 15 rebounds in Game 4, Gordon had 21 again, and despite Ginobili's strong defense of Jrue Holiday (5-16) and Kawhi's 28 points, the Pelicans took this one.

Game 5 saw the Spurs regain their strength, winning 114-107. Duncan had 4 early fouls, but Kawhi Leonard took charge. The Spurs got blocks, made shots and earned a lead in this series. Leonard finished it with a huge jam late, winning the 4th quarter 27-14. Tony Parker had his first big game with 27 points and Kawhi Leonard's beastly effort got 32, holding Tyreke Evans to only 7 points.

In the loss, Anthony Davis had 16 points, Eric Gordon had 24 and Holiday had 18. Manu Ginobili made a clutch 3 with 13 points.

Game 6, the Spurs ended this fierce battle, winning 118-108, forcing shot clock violations, turnovers and bad shots by the Pelicans. It was 21-12 after one, with 3 early fouls for Anthony Davis. A monstrous 14-0 run made it 37-18, a sign that this was the end for the gutsy New Orleans team. 3s continued to fall for the Spurs, making a 57-35 lead at halftime. The Pelicans made one last burst for a 9 point deficit only, but Anthony Davis fouled out, feeling the frustration of Kawhi Leonard from previous games. A three-pointer by Ray Allen iced this series, as the lead grew back to 15 again.

Kawhi Leonard had 21 points in the final game, Ginobili had 17, Green had 14, Allen had 13, Marion had 12 with an inspiring 4 blocks, Diaw had 12 and Parker had 9 with 5 assists. Eric Gordon had just 16 points, with Holiday scoring 24. The playoff veteran Kendrick Perkins got 16 points and 8 rebounds once Davis fouled out with just 12 points & 11 rebounds. Tyreke Evans went 3-8 from the floor.

Spurs win 71 games, Popovich wins Coach of the Year, and Kevin Durant wins MVP.

The defending champions know how to play the game, but Coach Popovich knows how to lead. The Spurs en route to their championship defense in the playoffs, won a masterful 71 games (71-11), coming close to the historic 72-win Chicago Bulls season but with their eyes on the prize instead.

Kevin Durant won the Most Valuable Player award and gave a tearful speech filled with humility and gratitude for his mother's impact on his life and success, hoping for a good post-season with his Thunder team. The Spurs will likely have to contend with the Thunder if they want to reach the Finals again to properly defend their title, but Durant won't make it easy.

Ray Allen tied Kyle Korver of the Atlanta Hawks in 3PT shooting percentage at 45%, making 226 total long balls, bested only by Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors, who had 272.

The Spurs as a team had the best shooting, with Kawhi Leonard on top, and JJ Barea won Sixth Man of the Year for the Dallas Mavericks, who were edged out of the playoffs by the New Orleans Pelicans. San Antonio looks forward to playing them in the first round, as NO was one of only three teams (the Thunder, as well) to defeat the Spurs at home this season

Spurs edge Lakers to cap off tremendous season, 99-105.

It was 28-26 after one, and both teams were eager to end the season in exciting fashion.

The Lakers went on an 8-0 run, before a big jam by Tyrus Thomas stifled it. Lou Williams was hot for LA, scoring 13 points early. A layup by Kobe took the lead, but with 1.2 seconds left, Tony Parker made a jumper to make it 49-49 at halftime.

A misfire from 3 by Kobe led to an outlet pass for Kawhi Leonard, but the Black Mamba turned back the clock and chased down Leonard for the thrilling denial at the rim, shocking the Texas crowd.

The Spurs turned to their big guns, Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter, who passed out to Danny Green for a long ball and then over to Manu Ginobili for a dunk, capping and 8-0 run, at 58-50. Lou Williams responded, still hot, but an alley oop to Kawhi Leonard set the tone for the closing period.

Shawn Marion soared in for an alley oop late, and a 3PTer by Boris Diaw made it 84-76 and another 8-0 run all but sealed the victory. The Lakers would not surrender, though, with scrappy play until the buzzer.

Kawhi Leonard had 28 points, despite 4 fouls, Parker had 10 points with 10 assists. Danny Green had 15, Manu had 12, Ray Allen had 9. Splitter and Duncan combined for 13 points and 16 rebounds. Kobe Bryant had 23 points on just 8-18 shooting, and Lou Williams had 26 points with 4-5 3PTers. The rookie, D'Angelo Russell, had a modest triple-double but a triple-double no less with 7 points, 9 rebounds and 11 assists.

Spurs crush Rockets, 102-84.

Dwight Howard had a good showing, but James Harden was the victim of Kawhi Leonard's defense. San Antonio wholly outplayed Houston, leading by 11 after the first period and by a huge 28 after the 3rd quarter. With this win, San Antonio had 70 victories and an 8th straight.