- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2007

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers came into last night’s Game 3 of the NBA Finals hoping their vociferous fans would pack Quicken Loans Arena and inspire them to overcome the San Antonio Spurs‘ 2-0 lead.

But San Antonio tuned out the wildly cheering crowd of 20,562 on the way to achieving a 75-72 victory for a commanding 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals, pushing the Cavaliers to the brink of elimination and leaving the Spurs on the verge of their fourth championship.

No team has fallen behind 3-0 in the finals and rallied to win the series.

In the latest installment of what has become a dreadfully dull series, the difference was the Spurs‘ marksmanship from long range: San Antonio was 10-for-19 from the 3-point line, while the Cavaliers were a hideous 3-for-19.

The Spurs, though dominant in the first two games of this series, struggled to shoot elsewhere and had more of a scuffle on their hands last night as a result.

Spurs forward Tim Duncan scored 14 points on 6-for-17 shooting. The Spurs got nothing from swingman Manu Ginobili, who finished with three points on 0-for-7 shooting.

Tony Parker led the Spurs with 17 points, but Bruce Bowen, who has been assigned to try to slow LeBron James, had his best offensive night. Bowen added 13 points and nine rebounds and made four of five 3-pointers.

“I thought he was fantastic from beginning to end,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He really set the tone for our team. He’s out there trying to guard a guy who is going to be a Hall of Famer one day.”

James led the Cavaliers with 25 points and eight rebounds on 9-for-23 shooting, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 18 rebounds and 12 points.

But the Cavaliers were done in by their 36.7 percent shooting (29-for-79).

Aware of the Cavaliers‘ predicament, James said that Cleveland, playing for its first NBA title in franchise history, can’t get wrapped up in history.

“Everybody has to still believe,” said James, who picked up his third foul in the second quarter. “We gave ourselves a chance to win tonight. We can’t live on history, but at the same time we have dug ourselves a deep hole. Now we’ve got to win four straight.”

The Spurs led by 29 at the end of the first half in their 103-92 Game 2 victory, and it looked last night as if the Cavaliers finally would hold a lead at the half.

But with 2:57 left in the second quarter and Cleveland on top 38-30, the Spurs closed out the half on a 10-0 run to lead 40-38 at the break.

The teams combined for just 27 points in the third quarter, when the Spurs started to look ready to finish this series off along the shores of Lake Erie as opposed to returning home to Texas.

Up 51-50 late in the third, the Spurs used a 16-7 run to go ahead 67-57. But Cleveland ran off eight unanswered points to pull within two.

Still leading 69-67, the Spurs pushed the lead to five on a 3-pointer by Parker.

With 10.4 left after Ginobili split a pair of free throws for a 73-70 lead, James scored and the Cavaliers quickly fouled Ginobili again. This time Ginobili made both free throws to make it 75-72 San Antonio.

Following a timeout, James got one more opportunity to tie the game when play resumed with 5.5 left, but his 3-pointer over Bowen bounced harmlessly off the rim as time expired.

“We fought, but we did not make enough plays at the end of the game,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “I thought we played them close in every category but from behind the 3-point line. But they are a great team at closing out on people when they take long jumpers.”



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