Can James reverse fortunes in San Antonio?
LeBron James guided the Cleveland Cavaliers to five straight postseasons and the 2007 NBA Finals before helping Miami win two titles during four consecutive Finals appearances.
The four-time MVP, however, has never had a great deal of success in San Antonio.
Making his first trip back since last season’s Finals, James will get an opportunity to see where his surging Cavaliers stand Thursday night when they try to stop the Spurs’ six-game winning streak.
James has come up short 12 times in 17 career games at the AT&T Center after his Heat fell 104-87 in Game 5 of last year’s Finals. His 25.2 scoring average in nine regular-season games there is also his worst versus any Western Conference foe.
Defensive wiz Kawhi Leonard, the 2014 Finals MVP, has contributed to San Antonio’s success against James.
"He’s very sound," James confessed. "I think what also helps him is the anchors that he has behind him in Timmy (Duncan), (Tiago) Splitter and the rest of those guys."
If James can reverse his fortunes in San Antonio, the Cavs will move to 2-0 on a four-game trip. He had 27 points and eight assists to take over sole possession of the team’s career assist record in Tuesday’s 127-94 rout in Dallas.
After a slow start in James’ second stint, Cleveland (41-25) has gone a league-best 22-5 while scoring an East-high 107.4 per game since Jan. 15. The Central Division leaders also have a slight edge in the race for the conference’s second seed.
"(The Cavs are) playing at a high level," Spurs guard Danny Green said. "They’ve got some great guys and great players. And they’re playing well together. They’re starting to mesh at a key time. It’s going to be a good matchup."
The defending champions went through a rough patch of their own, dropping four straight on their nine-game Rodeo trip before getting on track with their longest streak since an eight-game run from Nov. 17-Dec. 1.
San Antonio (40-23), sixth in the loaded West, is averaging 112.2 points on 48.0 percent shooting in the six games. The club built a 26-point lead Tuesday before holding on for a 117-107 home win over Toronto.
Leonard finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds and five steals, while Tony Parker had 23 points and nine assists. Parker has averaged 24.5 points in four games since scoring 6.8 per game on 26.0 percent shooting over his previous five.
Coach Gregg Popovich said he thought Duncan would be fine despite hyperextending his left elbow in the contest. Manu Ginobili is also expected to play after sitting out due to gastroenteritis.
"They’re going to have a high motor and share the ball," James said. "It’s a team that has so much chemistry because they’ve spent so much time together and they have championship DNA. It should be a good one."
San Antonio has won 10 straight in the series dating to James’ first stint in Cleveland. Duncan finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Boris Diaw added 19 points, seven assists and six boards in a 92-90 road win Nov. 19.
James was limited to 15 points on 6-of-17 shooting and made a costly turnover with 1.9 seconds left. Kevin Love was held to 10 while going 4 for 12 from the field.
After starting Tuesday’s game without a headband for the first time since the 2003 preseason as a rookie, James joked with reporters that the headband would be a game-time decision.