SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The Cleveland Cavaliers gave San Antonio another tense test at home before the Spurs rose up on defense for what they deemed their biggest win of the season.
Tony Parker had 24 points and San Antonio used a furious start to the fourth quarter to beat Cleveland 99-95 on Thursday night, remaining undefeated at home and avenging their previous loss in their own arena.
"Coming into this building, they’re never going to make many mistakes," said Cavaliers star LeBron James, who had 22 points. "(Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) definitely puts those guys in the right position every single possession to be successful for their team."
San Antonio (35-6) extended its home winning streak to 23 games to begin the season. The Spurs have won 32 straight at home dating to 2015 and became the first team in NBA history with a 10-game winning streak in six consecutive seasons.
The team’s last loss in San Antonio came against the Cavaliers on March 12 last year when Kyrie Irving scored an NBA season-high and career-high 57 points in a 128-125 overtime victory.
Irving was limited to 16 points on 6-for-16 shooting this time, but the game was just as intense.
Instead of folding on defense in the fourth period as they did in their previous home loss to Cleveland, San Antonio rallied in the final quarter Thursday.
"One of the best opponents we can play against. It gave us so many mismatches. They play different than most other teams," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "Of course, when you have a guy like LeBron, the whole team plays different. Kawhi (Leonard) did a very good job of making him play uncomfortable. As a team we were pretty sharp after that first quarter."
James shot 9 for 17 and attempted only four free throws.
The Spurs stiffened on defense and forced 18 turnovers after falling behind by 15 points in the opening quarter.
San Antonio limited Cleveland to 9-for-23 shooting in the fourth while making 58 percent of its own shots.
Leonard added 20 points and 10 rebounds for San Antonio, which has won 10 straight overall.
Tristan Thompson had 18 points and 14 rebounds for Cleveland, which had won eight in a row. Kevin Love finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, and J.R. Smith scored 17.
After a 32-point opening quarter, the Cavs were limited to 18 in the second.
"They did a good job of taking us out of our sets, but we also had some really good looks that didn’t go down for us," James said.
The Spurs looked unsure on offense early, so they went to an old standard in Parker’s drives to the basket.
"We had a hard time getting it going in the first half," Parker said. "I was rolling, so they went with me. In the third quarter, we wanted to establish Kawhi and establish LaMarcus (Aldridge). So we went at them almost every single time in the third quarter. It worked out pretty good for us; we got some wide-open 3s."
Parker scored the Spurs’ final 12 points to close the first half, sparking an offense that struggled against Cleveland’s active hands and rugged defense.
"Tony has carried us a lot this year because of his two-way play," Popovich said. "He’s working his butt off on Kyrie Irving, who is a great player. That’s not easy to do, and he was still aggressive defensively. So, Tony was great at both ends."
San Antonio took an 85-75 lead in the final quarter behind a 13-2 run fueled by role players David West, Danny Green and Patty Mills.
West had 13 points as the Spurs’ bench outscored the Cavaliers’ reserves 35-12.
Cavaliers: Cleveland is 22-5 against the Western Conference during the regular season dating to last season, including 8-4 this season. … The Cavaliers have won four games by 25 points or more, second only to the Spurs’ 10 such victories. … Thompson has appeared in 325 straight games, making him the NBA’s active leader after DeAndre Jordan sat out for the Clippers with pneumonia. Jordan had played in 360 consecutive games before missing Wednesday night’s home victory over Miami.
Spurs: Entering the game, San Antonio trailed for only 54 seconds of 264 minutes played during the fourth quarter at home this season. The Spurs trailed 88-85 against the Clippers to open the fourth but went on an 11-0 run to begin the quarter in a 115-107 victory. … Ginobili played in his 900th NBA game, all with the Spurs.
TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager received a standing ovation late in the first half when he was welcomed back to San Antonio. Sager returned to the sideline this season after twice battling cancer.
Sager also received a warm welcome during his in-game interview with Popovich, but only after some ribbing.
"Can’t they send somebody else out here?" Popovich asked.
"Sorry coach, it’s just you and me," a smiling Sager said as Popovich put his arm around the longtime reporter.
The Spurs tied the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls for eighth on the list for consecutive wins at home. Next up is Boston, which won 33 straight at home in 1986-87, and the Portland Trail Blazers, who had 34 in a row in 1977-78. Chicago holds the league’s longest home winning streak at 44 games from 1995-96.