Stockpile wins early: That’s what the San Antonio Spurs emphasized in training camp after paying the price for a lumbering start last year.
But they probably didn’t imagine this.
Tony Parker scored 19 points and the Spurs won their 10th in a row, improving their NBA-best record to 11-1 with a 116-92 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night, keeping the best San Antonio start in franchise history rolling.
”Great run for us,” Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. ”It’s a good start for us. There’s going to be some ups and downs this season, but this team is built on what we did last year.”
Reaching the Western Conference semifinals, where they were swept by Phoenix, happened no thanks to an uneven start in November. The Spurs were 6-6 at this stage last season, ultimately taking so long to hit their stride that the No. 7 seed in the West was the best they could muster.
Rookie Tiago Splitter, in the 7-footer’s biggest game since the Spurs made him their marquee addition this summer, scored 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Richard Jefferson scored 14 points and Manu Ginobili had 13.
”We need the wins early this year compared to last year down the stretch,” Ginobili said. ”In March and April, we put a lot of pressure on us.”
Mo Williams scored 21 points and Daniel Gibson had 17 for the Cavaliers, who played a night after losing on the road to New Orleans – the only team to beat San Antonio so far.
The Hornets are 10-1, which made for a grueling back-to-back for the Cavaliers, who have lost four of five.
”We wanted to use these two games as a measuring stick,” said forward Antawn Jamison, who scored 12 points. ”We showed signs, but it’s just not consistent 48 minutes to be able to compete against these two teams.”
The Cavaliers trailed 64-57 at halftime. Back in the locker room before the third quarter, coach Byron Scott let his players decide how to defend San Antonio’s pick-and-roll.
Scott said it was the first time he’s left that decision to his players.
”It might be the last, too,” Scott said.
Aside from adding Splitter – a first-round Spurs pick in 2007 who stayed in Europe until now – the roster for the Spurs didn’t change much since a year ago.
But they certainly don’t look the same.
The second-highest scoring team in the NBA behind the Los Angeles Lakers, the Spurs pulled away with a barrage of 3-pointers and a 14-6 burst in the third quarter after Cleveland trailed by seven at halftime. The 24-point win was the most lopsided Spurs victory this season.
Williams was 9 of 15 and had six assists, but was the only starter in double figures for the Cavaliers.
The Spurs made 12 of 25 from behind the 3-point line and had a season-high 32 assists, including nine from Parker. Matt Bonner, who hit four 3s, had 12 points.
The way the Spurs are scoring, Jefferson said it reminds him of the Suns.
The way they passed the ball against the Cavaliers, meanwhile, reminded him off his former team.
”That’s a lot. That’s up there with New Jersey, and we had Jason Kidd,” Jefferson said. ”With him, when our best player is probably one of the top two or three passers in the history of the game, it become contagious.”
Cleveland led by one going into the second quarter, but couldn’t keep up while the Spurs shot 63 percent heading into halftime. Ginobili scored all of his 13 points in the second quarter.
Notes: The last time the Spurs won 11 in a row was late in the 2008 season. Their longest streak a year ago was five games. … Cavaliers center Ryan Hollins was ejected in the fourth quarter when he brought down Splitter with his forearm. Said Scott after the game: ”In 1980s that’s a regular foul. Get up and play. I know what the league is trying to do and I understand that.” Splitter didn’t seem to mind, either, saying, ”I don’t care.”