SAN ANTONIO (AP)—They’ve got the superstar center, the speedy point guard and the super sub.
The San Antonio Spurs have a trio unlike any other on an NBA team.
They’re three of a kind who are just two wins from another title.
Tony Parker scored 30 points, Manu Ginobili had 25 and Tim Duncan added 23 as the Spurs schooled Cleveland in championship basketball for 3 1/2 quarters, overpowering the Cavaliers 103-92 in Game 2 on Sunday night to take a 2-0 lead in the NBA finals.
San Antonio was vastly superior in almost every way imaginable—building a 29-point lead and then relaxing in the fourth quarter—when the Cavaliers stormed back within eight points before the Spurs finally put them away for good.
“That’s why sometimes I don’t like to have a 20-point lead,” Parker said. “I’m not going to complain. I’ll take it.”
The Spurs, clicking on offense and digging their sneakers in on defense, were up by 28 in the first half and were embarrassing the Cavaliers, who are in their first finals but didn’t show up until it was too late.
“I think they just took their foot off the gas pedal,” Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said.
The Spurs’ Big 3 of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili combined for 43 points—10 more than the Cavs—in the first half and as both teams walked off the floor of AT&T Center, the arena’s p.a. announcer, Stan Kelly, summed up the first 24 minutes with a comment that would have been funny if it wasn’t so painfully true for Cleveland.
“Spurs by a bunch,” he said.
And at the same time, a fan held up a sign saying, “Bring Out LeBroom.”
Following the game, pumped-up Spurs fans walked the hallways chanting, “Sweep, Sweep.”
James, limited to 14 points in his finals debut, scored 25 Sunday on 9-of-21 shooting to lead Cleveland. But the Cavaliers’ superstar got into early foul trouble and played less than three minutes in the first quarter, sitting when the Spurs ran away to their huge lead.
Down by 25 points at halftime and 27 after three, the Cavaliers, who came out flat for the second straight game, went on a 22-4 run and eventually pulled within 95-87 on a three-point play by James with 4:53 left, a stunning turnaround for a team that looked done minutes earlier.
However, the Western Conference champions, who got sloppy and perhaps disinterested, responded as they almost always do. And, as usual, demanding coach Gregg Popovich wasn’t satisfied with his team’s overall effort.
“Well, we played well for three quarters,” he said. “But we got a win and we’re thrilled with that.”
Ginobili stopped Cleveland’s rally by hitting a 3-pointer as he was fouled by rookie Daniel Gibson. The four-point play made it 101-89 with 2:24 remaining.
“That was a heck of a play and a heck of a shot by Manu,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “He tricked our young fella and leaned right into him.”
Gibson’s 3-pointer got the Cavs within nine, but Duncan grabbed a rebound and scored inside to bail out the Spurs, who were outscored 30-14 in the fourth quarter.
“We knew it was coming,” Parker said of the Cavs’ comeback. “They are an NBA team and have LeBron James. They played very good in the fourth quarter. They made a big run, but in the end we made a couple of stops and got the win.”
With two more victories, small-market San Antonio, often overlooked in the conversation of great teams, can join the Boston Celtics (16 titles), Los Angeles Lakers (14) and Chicago Bulls (6) as franchises with at least four championships.
“Four for Four” has become the popular catchphrase among San Antonio fans in these finals, and the Spurs are making it stick.
“We took what was ours,” Ginobili said. “We just maintained home court advantage.”
Game 3 is Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena, which has never hosted a finals game and may only end up holding two unless the Cavaliers can put together four solid quarters.
“They came out the way we were supposed to come out,” Ilgauskas said. “They got all the loose balls again. Before we know it we were down 20 points. We got that feeling like the whole game we were running uphill with a hundred-pound bag around our backs. They are outhustling us. They are working harder.”
Frustrated at being stuck on Cleveland’s bench, James yelled something in Brown’s direction and then rubbed his forehead with his hand as the Spurs blew through the Cavs for more than 40 minutes like a Texas tornado.
Parker, the Spurs’ petite Frenchman, was magnifique.
He went 13-for-20 from the field, spun his way through defenders at will and made the Cavaliers look like shorts-wearing statues. Parker kept pushing the action in the third quarter, scoring 10 points to the delight of fiance Eva Longoria and Spurs fans, who aren’t ready to plan any parades just yet.
In the 2005 finals, the Spurs won the first two games against Detroit but had to go seven to win the title.
“I remember,” Ginobili said. “It was really embarrassing. Hopefully the guys that were in that finals learned from that.”
The Cavaliers, who were down 0-2 against Detroit in the conference finals, can also look to last year’s finals for comfort. Miami lost Games 1 and 2 in Dallas before going home to Florida and winning three straight and then beating the Mavericks on their home floor for their first championship.
“We’re definitely still confident,” James said. “We’ve been down 2-0 before and we have to find a way to get back the intensity we had in the fourth quarter and carry it into Game 3.”
Gibson added 15 points, Drew Gooden had 13 and Sasha Pavlovic 10 for the Cavs, who went just 19-of-29 from the line and got zero points in 20 minutes from point guard Larry Hughes, who is playing with a foot injury.
After building a 12-point lead in the first quarter while James was out, the Spurs pushed it to 17 on a 3-pointer from Ginobili. Parker scored on a three-point play and whizzed through the lane for a layup to make it 46-26.
Then, with 30 seconds left before the half, Parker drilled a 17-foot jumper to make it 58-30. By then, most of America had probably already switched over to “The Sopranos” series finale to see if Tony got whacked.
He didn’t. The Cavaliers did.
As fans dressed in silver and black poured into the arena on a sultry night in south Texas, a mariachi band played to chants of “Go, Spurs, Go,” a cry that can be heard in the streets of the Alamo City even when there’s no game scheduled.
Several fans posed to get their pictures taken in front of a display case containing the club’s NBA title trophies from 1999, 2003 and 2005. There’s plenty of room for a fourth, and the Spurs appear poised to get it.
Duncan, who had eight assists and nine rebounds, is second in career blocks in finals history with 63 behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who had 116. … The Spurs are just the fourth franchise to play in four finals in a nine-year span since the ABA/NBA merger in 1976-77. … Gibson led the Cavs with 16 points in the series opener, becoming the first rookie to lead his team in scoring in a Game 1 since Phoenix’s Alvan Adams in 1976. … Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens, a close friend of Cavs G Damon Jones, sat courtside. … More than 14,000 fans watched the game at the Q in Cleveland, where the game was shown in High-Definition 3-D.