CLEVELAND -- It was pick your poison time for the Cavaliers.
Either they would double-team San Antonio point guard Tony Parker or defend one of the Spurs' shooters in the corner.
They chose the former, and it cost them in the Spurs' 96-95 victory over the Cavaliers before an announced crowd of 12,162 at Quicken Loans Arena.
Parker broke down his defender, Cavs guard Shaun Livingston, and was driving toward the basket. He found a wide-open Kawhi Leonard in the corner, and Leonard buried a 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left for the game-winner.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was confident Leonard would make the 23-foot shot.
"We practiced that 1,000 times, so I knew he'd be able to execute it," Popovich said. "If Tony had an open layup, he would have gotten the layup. He beat the guy and everyone had to come in and that's the alternative."
The All-Star Parker led all scorers with 24 points while adding rebounds and seven assists. He made 8-of-14 from the field.
"I thought Tony did a fantastic job," Popovich said. "Kyrie (Irving) is a tremendous player. They have a fine, young team. They're just not experienced.
"They played hard. They battled us. They deserved to win the game as much as we did."
Cleveland guard Dion Waiters experienced the highs and lows of an NBA game, in the last 10 seconds.
With 9.9 seconds left, Waiters buried a 20-foot, step-back jumper to give the Cavaliers a 95-93 advantage.
However, he sagged off Leonard on his game-winning shot.
"I feel terrible," Waiters said. "I blame myself. I tried to help out (on Parker). I left him open."
Waiters is no stranger to defensive breakdowns. He sagged off Heat shooting guard Ray Allen, who dropped in a last-second 3-pointer in Miami's 110-108 victory on Nov. 24 at American Airlines Arena.
"It's the second time it's happened to me," Waiters said. "I have to stay home (on defense). You have to learn at the end of the day. I hate to lose that way."
The Cavaliers (16-37) had a chance to win it with a last-second shot, but point guard Kyrie Irving capped off an all-around terrible night by slipping, getting up and firing up a wild shot that had no chance of going in. He's had five game-winners in his career.
"I lost my balance," Irving said. "This was one of the worst shooting nights I've ever had."
Irving finished with a season-low six points, three rebounds and seven assists. He made only 2-of-15 shots from the field and was 0-of-10 in the second half.
"It was one of those nights," Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said. "He couldn't throw it into the ocean. He is human. He will have bad nights."
The Cavs' two rookie starters, Waiters and center Tyler Zeller, combined for 36 points.
Waiters had a team-high 20 points, six rebounds and four assists. The 7-foot Zeller added 16 points, a team-high nine rebounds and four assists.
Zeller hadn't scored in double figures since the Golden State game on Jan. 29, a span of seven games.
"Dion was good on both ends of floor," Scott said. "Tyler gave us a physical presence. The two young rookies played well."
The Cavs head into the All-Star break riding a three-game losing streak. The Spurs, who have the best record in the NBA, have won 14 of their last 15 games, including three in a row.
"Our guys played hard," Scott said. "The one thing we didn't want to give up was a 3. We gave up a 3. It was a lack of focus at that point. We played hard the entire night."
Scott said despite Irving's troubles all night, he didn't hesitate to put the ball in his hands at the end.
"Even though he was off tonight, I still had confidence he'd bring it home," Waiters said.
Forward Tim Duncan, who had missed eight of the previous nine games because of injuries, and Leonard each had 13 points for the Spurs (42-12).
"I'm glad I waited (to play)," Duncan said. "It's an injury that I didn't want to recur throughout the rest of the season. All that was going to help it was rest."
NOTES: Coach Byron Scott said he's a bit concerned with Kyrie Irving wearing down. He said after practice on Tuesday he was a bit banged up. Now, he'll have a busy weekend in Houston for the All-Star festivities. "I'm a little concerned he's going to come back tired," Scott said. "It's something we'll have to look at Monday." ... While watching the Cavaliers on video in preparation for last Saturday's game, Denver coach George Karl noticed that their second team played so confidently, it was almost "cocky." Cavs forward Luke Walton certainly didn't disagree with Karl's assessment. "We take a lot of pride in playing a certain style of basketball," Walton said. "We're loud and vocal. We play a certain way, even though it's for short minutes. Coming off the bench, you don't know how long you'll be out there. It's our job to push the first unit and pick up the level of competition. We like to yap. We like to talk a little trash and get the intensity going." The second team has been buoyed by the additions of center Marreese Speights, shooting guard Wayne Ellington and point guard Shaun Livingston. ... Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson couldn't wait to face Tim Duncan. "First of all, he and Tim are close," Scott said. "That's a big step going against TD. If he's not the best power forward to play the game, he's one of the best. It's a good measuring stick. You want to see where you stand." Thompson had 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. ... For some reason, Gregg Popovich has taken a shine to Scott through the years. "He called me to come down (to San Antonio) to join him for wine," Scott said. "I've always appreciated Pop. He'll go down as one of the best." Scott loves how Popovich holds everyone accountable on the team, even the superstars like Duncan. "He'll cuss out the first player or the 12th player," Scott said. "I've seen him go off on guys on the sideline." ... Spurs swingman Stephen Jackson (personal reasons) is not with the team.