Manu Ginobili made sure they left with a win. A big one.
Ginobili scored half of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, and San Antonio beat Cleveland 102-97 on Friday night, ending the Cavaliers' eight-game winning streak that began with a home victory over the Spurs earlier this month.
"It means we're not that far from the best," Ginobili said. "Of course, it's just a game, and at home. But it makes us feel better."
After losing to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, Ginobili was still stung that the Spurs couldn't beat both conference leaders back-to-back. But in what will likely be the worst regular-season for the Spurs in the Duncan era, they'll take this one.
LeBron James had 27 points for Cleveland, but the Cavs watched their second-longest winning streak slip away with six scoreless possessions down the stretch.
James misfired twice and turned the ball over on half of those possessions. His frustrating fourth quarter included tumbling to the baseline after losing the basketball -- when Ginobili, fittingly, hooked his left arm around to knock it away.
"I've seen every coverage before, so I've got past the frustration stage," James said. "They did a good job of keeping bodies in front of bodies, sometimes double-teams, sometimes trapping."
James had 11 points in the fourth, but it was Ginobili's quarter. He shot 4 of 7, including two 3-pointers and a stretch of four straight Spurs baskets.
It was the third 30-point game for Ginobili since being forced into the starting lineup this month when Parker broke his hand March 6.
Two nights later, the Cavs began their winning streak with a 97-95 win over the Spurs in Cleveland. They hadn't lost since.
Ginobili's 38 against the Cavs weren't enough to beat Cleveland that first time around. But 30 did the trick this time.
"He's the reason they're still above water even after Tony went out," James said.
Since Parker went down, Ginobili is averaging 23.8 points and has carried the Spurs to a 7-4 mark without their starting pointing guard. Parker isn't expected to return until the playoffs.
"With Tony down, he's got the ball in his hands a little more, He's a playmaker," said Duncan, who scored 16. "If you can put the ball in his hands and let him get comfortable, these are the results you get."
Beating the Cavs gave the Spurs one of their best wins in what will likely be their worst season in the Duncan era.
Excluding the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, San Antonio has never won fewer than 53 regular-season games since drafting Duncan in 1997. But that's now in jeopardy.
The Spurs (43-28) can only afford to lose once in their final 11 games to avoid their worst regular-season record since 1996-97, when they last missed the playoffs after winning just 20 games. They're in better shape this time -- but need to be careful.
San Antonio is seventh in the Western Conference, a half-game ahead of Portland.
The schedule only gets slightly easier for the Spurs, who go to Boston on Sunday. The Celtics are one of eight winning teams still ahead for the Spurs, including another round with the Lakers and Orlando.
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