|Cavaliers set to make NBA finals debut against Spurs|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 02 June 2007 18:06|
The Cavaliers will make their NBA finals debut Thursday night in San Antonio, where the Spurs have hung three banners since 1999 and will be favored to add another.
San Antonio's Gregg Popovich will be matched up against one of his former assistants. Mike Brown spent three seasons with San Antonio and was on the Spurs' bench when they won the 2003 title.
The Cavaliers selected James later that month with the No. 1 pick in the draft, and he needed only four years to get his team to the NBA's biggest stage.
Cleveland secured its finals spot by beating the Detroit Pistons 98-82 Saturday night in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. James had 20 points and 14 rebounds, and rookie Daniel Gibson added 31 points - 19 in the fourth quarter.
Cleveland hasn't had a championship team in any major sport since 1964, but has rarely had a player like James, who scored a playoff career-high 48 points, including the Cavs' final 25, in a double-overtime victory in Game 5.
``This is the best thing that ever happened to me, man,'' James said after the clincher. ``But look here, look here. It doesn't stop.''
The Cavaliers beat the Spurs in a pair of low-scoring games this season, not surprising because Popovich and Brown are defensive-minded coaches.
``We have a great relationship, we do talk from time to time,'' Brown said this week. ``He'll call and check up on me, I'll call and ask for advice, he'll call to say 'good win,' or whatever and I'll do the same. But, you know, that's about it.
``I learned a lot from him and I grew a lot while working for him, and I continue to look at him as a mentor and a guy that can help me out.''
The Spurs will be the more-rested team, having wrapped up their five-game victory over Utah in the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night. San Antonio took two days off before returning to practice Saturday.
``I spent some time in the pool for the first time in a year,'' Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. ``It's kind of nice to have a couple of days off. We really enjoyed it, and I think we needed it.''
The Spurs, who won titles in 1999, 2003 and 2005, are led by their trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili. Duncan is averaging 23.2 points and 11.4 rebounds while shooting 53.9 percent in the playoffs, while Parker is scoring 19.8 points per game and Ginobili is adding 16.4.
Bruce Bowen, one of the league's best defensive players, will try to slow down James.
James scored 35 points in the Cavs' 88-81 victory on Nov. 3, Cleveland's first win in San Antonio since 1988. He was held to only 19 in the second meeting, but the Cavs limited the Spurs to 38 percent shooting in an 82-78 home victory on Jan. 2.
Cleveland has won the last three meetings.
The Cavs will try to give the NBA consecutive first-time champions. Miami beat Dallas last year in a matchup of teams making their finals debuts.
The first two games are in San Antonio before the NBA finals arrive in Cleveland for the first time for Games 3-5.