The San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers kicked off the Saturday Showcase on ABC with an overtime thriller. The Spurs improved to 4-0 on the road against the Cavaliers, Warriors and Rockets — the other top-four teams in the NBA — this season.
Saturday was the first time this season that the Cavaliers lost when entering the fourth quarter with a lead. They were 26-0 in those games entering this matchup. Kawhi Leonard’s offensive dominance late in the game was a big reason for the Cavaliers’ first such loss of the season.
Kawhi continues to score at will
Leonard scored a career-high 41 points, and it was his first career 40-point game. He scored 18 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, his most after the third quarter in his career.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Leonard is the fifth player to record his first career 40-point game against LeBron James, joining Victor Oladipo, Jeff Green, Paul Millsap and Richard Jefferson.
This is the second time in four games that Leonard has scored more than 35 points. He did not do so once in the first 361 games of his career. He has scored 30 points in six consecutive games, tied for the third-longest streak in Spurs history. Hall of Famer George Gervin has the two longest 30-point streaks in team history: a 10-game and a nine-game streak in 1979-80.
Leonard could not limit LeBron James’ scoring, but he was able to contain James’ ability to create scoring opportunities for his teammates. James scored 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting with Leonard as his primary defender, but the Cavaliers were 0-for-5 on passes from James when Leonard started and finished the possession as his primary defender. Two of James’ seven turnovers came with Leonard as his primary defender.
LeBron’s late-game heroics fall short
James did everything he could to come out with the win in the fourth quarter, but his teammates came up short. He scored 10 of the team’s 18 points and was 3-of-4 from the floor, including a 3-pointer. The rest of the team was 3-for-16 from the floor and made one of nine attempts from beyond the arc. James’ teammates went 0-for-4 off his passes in the fourth quarter.
The 3-pointer James made in the fourth was from 30 feet out. He is 2-of-3 on 30-foot game-tying or go-ahead field goals in the final minute of the fourth quarter and overtime this season. He had been 0-of-5 on such shots entering this season.
James has two of the three 30-foot game-tying or go-ahead field goals in the final minute of the fourth quarter and overtime in the NBA this season. His first of the season was a 32-footer against the Bucks on Dec. 20. Andrew Wiggins has the only other such field goal.
James falls to 18-22 against the Spurs in his career (regular season and playoffs), his worst record against any opponent. The only other team against which he has a below-.500 record is the Nuggets (11-13).