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By Tom Withers | Associated Press
CLEVELAND -- They found the open man. They made the extra pass. They moved the ball with stunning efficiency.
The Spurs put on a basketball clinic. The Cavaliers couldn’t stop it.
Danny Green scored 24 points and San Antonio turned to its 3-point shooting to shake off a sluggish start in a 122-101 victory over Cleveland on Tuesday night.
Kawhi Leonard added 18 points, and Patty Mills and Boris Diaw had 16 apiece as the Spurs, running their offense to near perfection, won their fourth straight. They did it with stars Tim Duncan and Tony Parker combining for just 14 points.
And, the Spurs did it by racking up a season-high 39 assists on 43 field goals. In the second half, San Antonio had 24 assists on 25 field goals.
“That doesn’t happen very often,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We’ve been doing that really well all year long, but that’s a ridiculous ratio right there.”
San Antonio, chasing Oklahoma City for the best record in the Western Conference, made 14-of-33 3-pointers. The Spurs scored just 13 points in the first quarter and trailed by 12 early in the second before making six straight 3s.
Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters scored 24 each for the Cavs, who have lost nine straight to the Spurs. Spencer Hawes added 20 points and 13 rebounds for Cleveland.
This wasn’t as easy for the Spurs as their 30-point blowout of the Cavs in November, but it was close.
With the trademark proficiency that has made it a model franchise, San Antonio turned a competitive game for nearly three quarters into a laugher.
The always demanding Popovich had little to gripe about afterward.
“We’re always trying to move the ball, good to great,” he said. “Penetrate for a teammate, not necessarily for yourself. We did a really good job of it tonight. Sometimes you get an A-plus, sometimes you get an A-minus. Tonight was an A-plus in that regard.”
San Antonio started just 1-of-7 on 3-pointers, but the NBA’s best 3-point shooting team made 12 of its next 18 to open a 17-point lead after three quarters.
“In the first half, they missed a lot of shots and we caught a break,” Waiters said. “With that team you can’t make a lot of mistakes and we paid for it.”
Parker, playing his second game after sitting out six to heal up an assortment of injuries, scored seven points in 22 minutes. Duncan also had only seven but both All-Stars were able to enjoy the final quarter on the bench.
Whenever the Cavs got close, the Spurs simply ran their offense, and more times than not wound up making a 3-pointer to open some distance.
“That’s a lot of fun,” Manu Ginobili said. “That means everybody got involved and everybody enjoyed the game. It’s great to be a part of that.”
Irving’s three-point play late in the third pulled Cleveland to 76-65, but Mills made two 3-pointers and Diaw knocked down another 3 in the final 1:04 to put the Spurs ahead 85-68 entering the fourth.
Green’s 3-pointer made it 88-68, and his three-point play swelled the Spurs’ margin to 23 in the opening minute of the fourth.
The Spurs started miserably, shooting just 5-of-21 and scoring only 13 points in a ragged first quarter. They seemed disinterested and the Cavs took advantage, opening a 12-point lead in the first minute of the second quarter.
It didn’t last long.
San Antonio made those six straight 3s to open the second quarter, and the Spurs outscored the Cavs 37-17 in the period to take a 50-40 halftime lead.
Mills triggered the turnaround by scoring 10 points in the quarter.
“He got 10 points when we were struggling to make buckets,” Ginobili said.
The Cavaliers got Waiters back but still have some key parts missing.
Cleveland center Anderson Varejao was sidelined for the 11th straight game with a sore back, and swingman C.J. Miles sat out his seventh in a row with a sprained left ankle.
— The Spurs improved the NBA's best road record to 23-8.
— Green played 20 games as a rookie with Cleveland in 2009-10, when Mike Brown was in the final season of his first stint as Cavs coach. Green was cut the following season, and released twice by San Antonio before landing a full-time gig with the Spurs. Brown has always pulled for Green. "Great guy," Brown said. "He worked his tail off to get where he is. I wouldn't wish anything besides luck for him, except when he's playing us. When he did start having some success -- because he didn't change as a person -- everybody that crossed paths with him has rooted for him."
— The Spurs have had a winning road record for 17 straight seasons, a league mark.