Spurs 96, Cavaliers 95: Kawhi Leonard nails game-winner to extend streak


Picture courtesy of @jamdraper, ESPN TrueHoop blogger.

In what was supposed to be Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili’s show in their first game back from injuries, it was Kawhi Leonard and Dion Waiters of the Cleveland Cavaliers that stole the spotlight late.

The Spurs won the game via a last second corner three from Kawhi Leonard, only seconds after Dion Waiters had made a touch stepback jumer to give the Cavaliers the lead with 9.5 seconds remaining in the game.

After Leonard’s three, Cleveland had just enough 2.9 seconds left to run one more play, which ended up as a tough runner that missed for Kyrie Irving, who struggled all night with shooting and foul trouble totaling only 6 points on 2-15 shooting and racking up 5 fouls. Irving also had 7 assists and 3 rebounds.

Tony Parker, who has come off of an extremely hot streak started off slowly in the first half, but by the end of the night had 24 points, 7 assists, and 6 assists.

Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan were both back for their first game since getting injured. Ginobili played only 10 minutes, but he looked good, getting 5 points on 4 shots. He also racked up 6 assists quickly, as he worked well in the pick-and-roll. Duncan played a total of 25 minutes. He struggled offensively, with 13 points on 6-15 shooting, but his impact was felt on defense and in rebounding, as he held down the paint having 5 blocks, and picking up 6 rebounds.

Kawhi Leonard, who continued his recent string of strong performances, had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and of course, the last second game winning three.

For Cleveland, Waiters finished as the high point man, scoring 20 on 8-15 shooting, and looked very impressive driving into the teeth of the Spurs interior defense. Tyler Zeller, the other first round pick of Cleveland, had 16 points on 7-10 shooting, as well as 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Zeller also looked very good defensively, as he was the one matched up against Tim Duncan. He bodied Duncan nicely, and preventing him from getting comfortable in the post and forcing him to take more difficult shots as the night went on.

This marks the last game for both teams going into the All Star break this weekend. The Spurs have multiple participants in the weekend’s festivities. Parker and Duncan will both be playing for the Gregg Popovich coached West All-Stars this year. Parker will also be in the All-Star Saturday night’s Skills Competition. Matt Bonner is also participating on All-Star Saturday night, as he is in the Three Point Contest. Kawhi Leonard will be on Team Shaq on Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge.

The next game for the Spurs is on next Tuesday, February 19th in Sacramento against the Kings at 10:00 PM ET.

Game Notes

  • Kawhi Leonard’s three was an amazing play, but Kawhi may have seemed like an interesting choice for who to put on the corner for a possible three. Some logic might say that Matt Bonner or Danny Green may have been the right choices to put there, as they are the Spurs’ designated three point gunners. However, Danny Green was struggling from the field tonight shooting, and while Bonner was in the game, he was most likely just decoy since Cleveland knows he’s only on the floor for a three. Now, Kawhi has been a good overall three point shooter this year at .4oo from behind the arc, but he’s deadly from the corners, shooting .480. That makes him the perfect candidate to sit in the corner and be a potential threat if Parker demands help on the pick and roll. That ended up being the case tonight as Kawhi got the chance to show off his corner three proficiency as he got a wide open look, and hit it.
  • This doesn’t really pertain to the game tonight, but I thought it was an interesting tidbit. I was watching the Cavs broadcast, and one of the things their crew talked about right before the tip-off was about how Tim Duncan had mentored Tristan Thompson. Apparently, during the lockout in 2011, Thompson, who had attended college at the University of Texas in Austin, sought out Duncan and worked out with him, getting prepared for the season. Duncan went on to say that he thought Thompson had the potential to be very good in this league. His rookie season was not great, but Thompson’s hard work has paid off this year as he has improved literally every part of his game this year. He has averaged 11.4 points per game on .504 shooting, and has also gotten 9.1 rebounds per game. Duncan’s mentee has proven himself as an up-and-coming threat in the post, and justified the Cavs taking him 4th overall in 2011.
  • Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters seemed to have a Freaky Friday situation going on, as all game long they played like each other. Waiters looked a lot better than he usually does, and showed the ability to dart into the lane among the trees early and often. Waiters is known for taking a lot of shots, and being inefficient, but tonight he showed that sometimes he could get cooking. Irving, on the other hand, played what seemed to be his worst game in a Cavs uniform. The Spurs defense crashed around him all night, forcing him to take either a bad shot, or pass to a teammate. Kyrie’s struggles were illustrated best late in the game, which is usually when he takes over and does something ridiculous to win the game. Tonight, he just kept missing down the stretch, and on the final possession, when the ball was going his way, he slipped on the inbounds pass, and forced up a bad shot .(Although, on that final shot, there were only 2.9 seconds left, and Ton Parker played him perfectly on defense.)
  • There was a little cause for concern for Manu Ginobili, as he came out and played for 10 minutes in the first half, but never got put in in the second half. It’s not that he played badly, when he shot he took a smart one, and he played some very good pick-and-roll with DeJuan Bair, helping Blair get going in the half. It could be that Pop wanted to rest Ginobili some more, being tentative with putting strain on his hamstring. But, there’s also the possibility that Manu managed to hurt it again in the first half. Thankfully, the All-Star break is this weekend, so Manu has even more time to rest from whatever happened, so we will see what happens on Tuesday against the Kings.
  • Sadly, Danny Green is no longer scorching. In the first four games of the Rodeo Road Trip, Green shot from three at an astounding rate of .593. Tonight, however, he shot 1-7 from three, as the Spurs were in a funk from deep as a team, shooting at an abysmal rate of .263. This regression to the mean was expected for Green, but, it was fun while it lasted. He’s still a great shooter, and he will still have a positive impact on this team.