SAN ANTONIO -- LeBron James wasn't looking forward to a fourth overtime in three games.
Ginobili did, and James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were able to breathe easy.
"You know it was down to the last shot again for us going into overtime," said James, who scored 27 points in the Cavaliers' 90-88 victory Thursday night. "It was big to see the ball not go in with no time on the clock. Big win."
And while the Cavs were careful to treat the matchup like any other in the regular season, it could not have escaped anyone's attention that the victory came against the team that swept them in the NBA Finals last June.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 17 points for Cleveland, which has won three in a row, and Anderson Varejao scored 12 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in their first meeting with the Spurs since June's Finals.
"The Finals are over and done with," James said. "One thing we did tonight, we got defensive steps and we made plays down the stretch. ... We've just got to continue to play well. We've been playing great basketball lately."
Ginobili scored 31 points for the Spurs, and Tony Parker added 23 points but missed two free throws with 29.4 seconds to play that would have tied the game at 90.
"They both felt good. They just didn't go in," Parker said. "I shoot 200 free throws every day. It was a good chance to show my improvement. They just didn't go in."
Tim Duncan scored 20 points and had 11 rebounds for San Antonio, which has lost four games at home and dropped to 5-5 in its past 10 overall.
A goaltending call against James, coming off a season-high 51 points against Memphis, gave the Spurs an 86-85 lead with 1:34 to play, but Daniel Gibson's 3-pointer put Cleveland ahead.
Duncan tied it at 88 before James' winning layup gave the Cavs a 90-88 lead with 33.6 seconds left. Parker, with a chance to tie, missed his two free throws and Ginobili's last-second jumper attempt didn't fall.
"I'd do that 10 out of 10 times, you bet," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of not taking a time out before the last play. "You're not going to get a better shot than Manu or Tony going one-on-one down the court."
Gibson, who added 11 points for Cleveland, agreed, and not because Popovich's decision resulted in the Cavaliers' win.
"It was a great call by Pop, to kind of let them go," Gibson said. "Because when you're in transition, it's tough to find a body. We were all scrambling looking for him."
The Spurs jumped out to a nine-point lead early and extended it to 10 early in the second quarter.
But the Cavaliers, behind Ilgauskas and Varejao, who scored nine and eight points in the quarter, respectively, went on a 17-2 run to go up 43-33 with 3:38 left in the quarter.
Only Ginobili, with 10 points in the second period, kept the Spurs afloat.
Cleveland, up 50-43 at halftime, took the lead with 7:30 left in the second quarter -- and kept it until about halfway through the fourth quarter -- off Damon Jones' fast break layup that broke a 31-all tie.
The Cavs extended their lead to eight points at 73-65 by the end of a third quarter in which the teams largely traded baskets, allowing Cleveland to keep San Antonio at bay.
Down 73-65 heading into the final quarter, Ginobili scored eight straight for the Spurs to open the period and bring San Antonio within 77-73. Spurs guard Brent Barry, in his first game since tearing a calf muscle in late December, scored his first points of the night on a 3-pointer that made it 77-76.
Parker's fast break to the rim with 6:42 left closed the Spurs' 13-4 run and gave them their first lead, 78-77, since 8:06 remained in the second quarter.
Barry's second 3 gave San Antonio another lead at 81-79 before Ilgauskas tied it at 81 with 5:08 to play.
|LeBron and the Cavs get a small measure of revenge against the team that swept them in the Finals. (AP)|
|Cleveland (21-18) «||19||31||23||17||90|
|San Antonio (25-12)||26||17||22||23||88|
|CLE:L. James 27 Pts
CLE:A. Varejao 14 Reb
CLE:L. James 7 Ast
|SA:M. Ginobili 31 Pts
SA:T. Duncan 11 Reb
SA:T. Parker 6 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|L. James, SF||39||9-24||8-12||9||7||1||27|
|Z. Ilgauskas, C||33||7-11||3-5||6||1||3||17|
|L. Hughes, SG||30||2-7||0-0||3||3||4||4|
|D. Gooden, PF||24||2-7||0-0||5||1||3||4|
|S. Pavlovic, SG||19||1-4||2-2||4||0||1||4|
|A. Varejao, C||32||6-9||0-0||14||0||1||12|
|D. Gibson, PG||28||4-9||1-1||1||2||3||11|
|D. Jones, PG||19||3-3||0-0||2||0||1||7|
|D. Brown, SG||16||1-3||2-2||1||4||4||4|
|D. Marshall, PF||Did Not Play|
|E. Snow, PG||Did Not Play|
|I. Newble, SF||Did Not Play|
|D. Jones, PF||Did Not Play|
|S. Brown, PG||Did Not Play|
|C. Simmons, SF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|T. Duncan, PF||40||7-17||6-10||11||1||3||20|
|T. Parker, PG||38||10-21||3-5||3||6||1||23|
|B. Bowen, SF||34||1-4||0-0||3||1||2||2|
|M. Finley, SG||18||2-5||0-0||3||1||0||4|
|F. Oberto, C||18||0-0||0-0||3||1||3||0|
|M. Ginobili, SG||35||10-15||7-8||4||4||3||31|
|B. Barry, SG||15||2-6||0-0||1||2||0||6|
|I. Udoka, SF||13||1-3||0-0||3||0||2||2|
|J. Vaughn, PG||10||0-0||0-0||1||2||1||0|
|R. Horry, PF||9||0-2||0-0||4||0||1||0|
|M. Bonner, PF||6||0-1||0-0||2||0||0||0|
|F. Elson, C||3||0-2||0-0||2||0||1||0|
|I. Mahinmi, C||Did Not Play|
|J. Richardson, SF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|