Spurs hang on to beat toughest rival; Cavs go from bad to worse

Manu Ginobili

Manu Ginobili (photo. Xinhua)

Apparently the Timberwolves are to the Spurs what the Bobcats were to the Celtics a couple years ago. Remember when the ‘Cats were generally bad, but somehow managed to always give the Big Three C’s a hard time? Last night’s Spurs/Wolves game was the third time in three matchups this year that the game went down to the wire, and the third time San Antonio walked out with a close win … Midway through the fourth quarter, Antonio McDyess hit a standstill baseline jumper (the guy used to have a 40-something-inch vertical) to put the Spurs up seven, and after Kevin Love responded with a hook shot, Manu Ginobili (21 pts, 7 rebs, 4 stls) snatched an offensive rebound and everybody in blue forgot about him, leaving him alone for a baseline J to make it a seven-point game again. Minnesota rallied, and with 1:30 remaining trailed by three. On a crucial possession, a tipped pass cost K-Love (18 pts, 17 rebs) what would have been an open straightaway trey, then Love tried to sneak a bullet pass around Tim Duncan that TD intercepted like Ed Reed. After George Hill gave the ball right back on a turnover, Luke Ridnour missed a three. Manu missed a runner on the other end, and with 9 seconds left, the Wolves had one more shot. Ridnour and Love couldn’t get anything on a pick-and-pop, so Anthony Tolliver ended up with the rock and airballed a three … Back home after an eventful Eastern road trip — losses to New York and Boston, barely beating Indiana, Gregg Popovich nearly challenging his whole team to a fight — the Spurs still had some little internal issues. Tony Parker was barely a factor (11 pts, 4 asts), and Pop benched him for a long time after a play where TP could have taken a charge from Love but stepped out of the way. Yeah, you want your guys to sacrifice for the W, but c’mon: Would you step in front of Kevin Love if you were built like Parker? … And keep in mind Michael Beasley sat out the entire second half with an ankle injury. So this wasn’t even a full-strength Wolves squad … No matter how good your best players are, it’s always better to play 5-on-5 instead of 3-on-5. The Miami Heat had to learn that lesson again, as they went into Portland against the always-patchwork Blazers and got all they could handle. Bottom line: Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh alone can’t knock off a team that gets key contributions from LaMarcus Aldridge, Nic Batum, Marcus Camby, Wes Matthews, Patty Mills and pretty much everybody else who stepped on the court … Oh wait, yes they can. Miami still won despite their Big Three scoring 89.7 percent of the team’s points …

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LeBron James

LeBron James (photo. David Alvarez)

After Wade started the game hotter than a firecracker — scoring 15 of Miami’s first 19 points on 7-for-7 shooting — the Blazers stayed close thanks to Batum getting buckets on LeBron and playing solid D on the MVP. Portland took its first lead in the third quarter, and to start the fourth, Wade and Bosh (18 pts) were on the bench while LeBron ran with the “other guys.” Which was significant because through the first three quarters, the non-James/Wade/Bosh contingent had made all of three field goals. Wes Matthews (13 pts, 6-20 FG) knocked down a triple with two minutes left that seemed like a dagger, but LeBron answered with a layup and a three, Wade (34 pts) added an acrobatic layup, and James Jones tied it at the stripe with 50 seconds left on a play where LeBron double-dribbled twice but wasn’t called for it. Aldridge, who was torturing Bosh in the post all night, did it one more time to give Portland the lead, but LeBron hit two free throws with 24 seconds left for the tie. Next possession, Andre Miller had two open jumpers after LeBron slipped trying to guard him, but both were short … In overtime it was still the Wade/LeBron/Bosh show, as Miami built a cushion despite Aldridge’s best efforts (31 pts, 14 rebs, 7 asts). The Blazers were down four with about 30 seconds left and had the ball, but LeBron scared Aldridge into traveling on an attempted outlet pass, then LeBron knocked down a three that really was the dagger. When Portland took a timeout, LeBron (44 pts, 13 rebs, 6 asts) walked up to the Blazers crowd and made the “bring it on” gesture. “Wow,” said one Portland announcer. “No wonder so many people like him.” … The “Three Goggles” is the coolest celebration to hit Portland since Darius Miles was doing the head-tap … Is it just us or does Wes Matthews kind of look like D-Wade on human growth hormone? Maybe it’s a Marquette thing … It says here the Knicks are a big deal again, but the most intriguing part of last night’s Knicks/Lakers game at Staples Center was seeing if Clyde Frazier‘s leopard jacket was actually going to come alive and claw Mike Breen’s eyes out … The defending champs administered a thorough beating to extend their win streak to four and snap New York’s at three. It was all about rebounding: Kobe (27 pts) had 10 rebounds, Pau Gasol (20 pts) had 14 boards, Lamar Odom had 18, and Ron Artest had 9. In total, L.A. out-rebounded NY 61-42, which especially hurt considering the Knicks shot a season-low 38 percent from the floor … Other stat lines from Sunday: Blake Griffin put up 23 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Clippers past Golden State; Dave West posted 19 points and 8 boards to lead New Orleans past Denver, while Carmelo Anthony had a curiously quiet 8 points (3-11 FG) in what a lot of people are now saying was his last game with the Nuggets; Andrea Bargnani dropped 30 points on Sacramento in a Toronto win; and Steve Nash had 20 points, 17 assists and 3 steals as Phoenix edged Cleveland, while J.J. Hickson had 23 points and 17 boards in the loss … Before the game, the Cavs learned they will lose Anderson Varejao for the rest of the season due to a torn tendon in his ankle. Varejao got hurt in practice, according to Byron Scott, when he was running a harmless drill and crumpled to the ground after planting his foot wrong. “It’s a big blow,” Scott told the Associated Press. “Arguably, he’s been our best player.” That last line tells you how bad things have become for the Cavs … We’re out like Marquette doppelgangers …

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