SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Spurs are without Tony Parker and their usual fire on defense, but they still have Tim Duncan. They needed the All-Star power forward to overcome their alarming lack of defense.
Duncan had 30 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks, and the Spurs beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 119-113 on Saturday night.
Kawhi Leonard added 24 points and 13 boards, and Manu Ginobili added 14 points and 10 assists for San Antonio (51-16), which is 1 1/2 games ahead of Oklahoma City for the top seed in the Western Conference.
“Tim saved our (butt),” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who was ejected midway through the second quarter. “He obviously carried the whole night for us. He was great. It shouldn’t have to be that way.”
Nando De Colo had 11 points and Tiago Splitter 10 for the Spurs.
Playing without its top two players in point guard Kyrie Irving and center Anderson Varejao, Cleveland (22-44) led 103-102 with 5 minutes left in the game.
Opponents were averaging 96.2 points against the Spurs entering Saturday’s game, but the Cavaliers had 90 after three quarters. For a franchise and a coach that has won four NBA titles on the shoulders of its defense, the lack of focus is troubling to say the least.
“We’ve got to step up and play better,” Ginobili said. “The playoffs are around the corner; 15 games to go and we are doing worse than at the beginning of the season. We’ve got to go by this slump and get our things together.”
Wayne Ellington had 21 points and fellow reserve Marreese Speights added 19 for Cleveland. Shaun Livingston had 16 points, and Alonzo Gee and Dion Waiters added 15 apiece.
Neither offense was slowed by the loss of its starting All-Star point guards. Parker is expected to miss another two weeks with a Grade 2 left ankle sprain and Cleveland will be without Irving (shoulder) for another three weeks.
It was defense that both teams were lacking.
“We’ve been emphasizing for two and half weeks and it hasn’t done any good,” Popovich said. “I need to learn another language or I don’t know what. But, very disappointed in our defensive execution in the last two to three weeks after we raised our stock from being a middle of the road defensive team last year to one of the top two or three this year.
“Then in the last three weeks, we decide to toss it; that it’s not important. I’m really concerned and disappointed in that.”
Frustration with that defense may have led to Popovich’s ejection. He was ejected with 6:33 left in the first half after arguing a charge Ed Malloy called on Boris Diaw against Luke Walton. After the initial technical, Popovich was quickly assessed a second and ejected after storming onto the court, yelling and pointing at Malloy.
San Antonio outscored Cleveland 19-12 down the stretch, but the Cavs shot 51 percent from the field.
Duncan blocked Tristan Thompson’s layup attempt with the Spurs leading 113-109 and 54.9 seconds remaining. Duncan also blocked Waiters’ shot with 17.9 seconds left and San Antonio leading 116-111.
It was two of the few defensive highlights for the Spurs.
“It’s not been great and I don’t know why,” Duncan said. “I think the effort is there. We’re playing hard. We’re giving up too many straight drives right to the rim. We’ve got find a way to kind of counter that; find a way to clean that up.”
Duncan had 13 points in the first quarter, going 6 for 9 and collecting six rebounds.
He tossed in a 2-foot jumper that gave the Spurs a 30-21 lead with 3 minutes left in the first quarter. Leonard picked up an assist on the basket, hustling in from out of bounds to tip his own missed shot to Duncan.
“We’re moving the ball and it’s gone to the post a little more,” Duncan said. “That’s where I’m a little more effective. I still haven’t gotten my shot back the way I want it. I’m just trying to be aggressive.”
Waiters’ 3 with 7 minutes left in the first half capped a 13-5 run that gave the Cavaliers a 48-44 lead.
After CJ Miles made both free throws on Popovich’s technicals, the Spurs closed the first half on a 22-11 run to take a 66-61 lead. Ginobili had eight points in the run and Duncan added seven.
Cleveland shot 61 percent from the field in the first half.
“I think they’re the best team in the league,” Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said. “I don’t know if they’re going to win it. They have the best talent and the best coach, so they have a great shot of winning another championship. I think for us, we played this game really well.”
The Spurs never trailed in the third quarter, but Livingston’s layup with 1:20 left tied the game at 90 to set up the fourth quarter.
76ERS 98, PACERS 81
PHILADELPHIA — Spencer Hawes had 18 points and career highs with 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
Jrue Holiday added 27 points and 12 assists to help the Sixers win for only the third time in 15 games. While the Sixers are one of the worst road teams in the league, they are 19-17 at home.
The Sixers led by one at the end of the third quarter, then opened the fourth on a 19-4 run to put away the Pacers. Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young each contributed some lead-stretching buckets in the fourth to put all five starters in double figures.
Roy Hibbert had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers.
CELTICS 105, BOBCATS 88
BOSTON — Paul Pierce had 14 points, eight assists and six rebounds before sitting out the fourth quarter, and Boston won its 11th straight at home.
Avery Bradley scored 13 and Courtney Lee had 12 points and five assists as the Celtics beat the Bobcats for the first time in three meetings this season. Two of the Bobcats’ NBA-low 14 wins came against the Celtics, including a 100-74 blowout in Charlotte on Tuesday.
Kevin Garnett sat out with a strained left thigh muscle, but the Celtics put all five starters were in double figures.
Jannero Pargo led Charlotte with 18 points. Gerald Henderson had 16 points, Kemba Walker scored 14 and Josh McRoberts pulled down 10 rebounds for the Bobcats, who lost for the 12th time in 13 games. Charlotte’s only win during that stretch was Tuesday against the Celtics, when Pierce rested.
WIZARDS 127, SUNS 105
WASHINGTON — Martell Webster scored a career-high 34 points and became Washington’s first 30-point scorer this season.
John Wall added 17 points and 11 assists as Washington won its fourth straight at home and third straight overall while setting its season high in scoring.
Emeka Okafor added 17 points and 10 rebounds as Washington snapped a 10-game losing streak to Phoenix, dating to 2006.
Michael Beasley scored 21 points and Goran Dragic added 12 points and 11 assists as the Suns lost their fourth straight and fell into last place in the Western Conference.
JAZZ 90, GRIZZLIES 84
SALT LAKE CITY — Gordon Hayward scored 17 points in his first start since November, including a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left, and Utah beat Memphis.
The Grizzlies (44-21) had won 14 of 15 but have dropped two straight to close out a four-game road trip.
Utah (34-32) pulled within a half-game of the idle Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Jerryd Bayless led all scorers with 24 points. Memphis teammate Zach Randolph added 19 and Mike Conley 13 but on just 6-of-18 shooting.
TRAIL BLAZERS 112, PISTONS 101
PORTLAND, Ore. — LaMarcus Aldridge had 31 points and 12 rebounds, and Portland handed Detroit its eighth straight loss.
Rodney Stuckey had a season-high 32 points for the Pistons, who have yet to win a game in March. They’ve lost 11 of their last 12.
J.J. Hickson had 18 points and 15 rebounds and all of Portland starters were in double figures.
Will Bynum had 23 points off the bench for Detroit.