Spurs not in the clear just yet

Mike Popovich

Halfway home in these NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs have another championship in their sights.

They also know everything can unravel in hurry, as it almost did in Game 2 on Sunday.

The Spurs saw a 27-point lead over the Cavaliers at the start of the fourth quarter shrink to eight with just less than five minutes left. They recovered in time and held on for a 103-92 win to grab a 2-0 series lead.

Head Coach Gregg Popovich and his team wanted more momentum than this entering Game 3 tonight in Cleveland.

“It was really disappointing,” Spurs forward Manu Ginobili said. “We played such a great game for three quarters. Seeing the team kind of stop in the fourth quarter was irresponsible from us.

“We’ve really got to learn from that. We’ve got to finish games.”

The Spurs have had problems doing it against the Cavs.

In their past three games, the Cavs have outscored the Spurs 95-63 in the fourth quarter. San Antonio also appeared to have Game 1 under control before the Cavs made things interesting down the stretch.

After Game 2, Spurs point guard Tony Parker said the challenge of playing with a big lead over long periods of time is difficult.

“It’s the NBA and Cleveland; they’ve got a lot of pride,” Parker said. “They made a hell of a run in the fourth quarter, and that’s going to give them confidence going back to Cleveland.

“They hit a lot of 3s and were playing well in the second half. I just think we have to keep playing and be aggressive. We kept the lead, but we need to play better in the fourth quarter.”

Only time will tell if the fourth quarter of Game 2 ends up being a difference-maker in this series.

LeBron James and Daniel Gibson combined for 17 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Cavs’ comeback. James, Gibson, Anderson Varejao, Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones were on the court most of the quarter, while Parker and Spurs starters Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen saw minutes.

“Throughout the entire game, we always felt like we had a chance,” Gibson said. “We were going to keep fighting for that chance.

“You go up by that much, and teams tend to relax a little bit. They think the game’s going to end. At the same time, we as a unit didn’t stop. We were going to keep fighting regardless of what they did. So we’re going to take some of the things we did and try to use them for the next game.”

This is the third straight time the Spurs have taken a 2-0 lead in the Finals. Their last two opponents have not gone down easily.

New Jersey won two of three at home to send the Finals back to San Antonio for Game 6 in 2003. Two years ago, Detroit came back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to force Game 7.

With Cleveland hosting the Finals for the first time, the Spurs still have obstacles.

“They’ve played well there, and I think they’ll feel a lot looser and a lot more aggressive,” Popovich said. “I think it’ll be a tremendous challenge for us. I think the place will be rocking, without a doubt.”

Reach Repository sports writer Mike Popovich at (330) 580-8341 or e-mail: