Cavs slipping in Eastern playoff race

Loss to Spurs puts Cleveland 1 1/2 games behind Boston

Posted: Tuesday, March 30, 2004

SAN ANTONIO - This time Bruce Bowen was ready for LeBron James.

Bowen, the guy the San Antonio Spurs sic on their opponent's top perimeter scorer, limited Cleveland's rookie sensation to six points in the first half of the Spurs' 101-93 win over the Cavaliers on Monday night.

James, coming off a career-high 41 points on Saturday, finished with 18 - and most of that came after San Antonio had built a double-digit lead.

Back in February, when Bowen got his first look at James, the 19-year-old scored 32 points in an 89-87 Cleveland win.

"The last time my play wasn't really aggressive," said Bowen, who gives up a couple of inches and about 40 pounds to James. "He's talented. I'm just doing what I do. I create havoc."

Bowen shadowed James all over the floor, bumping and poking and prodding him whenever the ball came his way.

James went 3-for-9 in the first half before scoring 12 points in the third quarter, half of them while being guarded by Manu Ginobili. He then sat out the entire fourth quarter.

When asked if he struggled, James said, "Eighteen points in three quarters - I don't know if I'd really call that struggling."

Ginobili had 21 points, 16 of them in the first half. Tim Duncan added 18 points and Tony Parker had 14 for San Antonio, which shot 51.2 percent from the floor for its third consecutive win.

The victory keeps San Antonio a game and a half behind first-place Minnesota in the Midwest Division race, while Cleveland slipped to one and a half games behind Boston for the eighth playoff slot in the Eastern Conference.

"The games mean so much more now - you are fighting for a playoff spot every night," Cavs coach Paul Silas said. "I think we might have been intimidated. At this time of the year you really have to have been there before to really know about it."

The Spurs led by as many as 23 early in the fourth quarter. Lee Nailon scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth for the Cavs, who outscored the Spurs 28-15 in the quarter to make the score respectable.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas matched James with 18. Juneau-Douglas High School alum Carlos Boozer scored 11.

Mateen Cleaves, who helped Michigan State win the 2000 NCAA championship, signed a 10-day contract with the Cavaliers on Monday to help the team at point guard while Jeff McInnis is on the injured list. Cleaves was scoreless in 13 minutes.

Grizzlies 136, Hawks 133, 2 OT

ATLANTA - James Posey was dehydrated and badly in need of fluids after starring in a game that lasted 3 hours, 15 minutes.

His persistence was obvious, and so was that of the Memphis Grizzlies.

"We refused to lose," said Posey, who had 49 minutes of possible 58 of playing time.

He scored a career-high 38 points - including a buzzer-beating 3 to force a second overtime period - and rampaging Memphis beat Atlanta in the highest-scoring NBA game of the season.

Officials reviewed the play to confirm Posey's shot at the end of the first overtime was launched before time ran out. Posey also hit two free throws with 10.7 seconds left in the second overtime, and the Hawks missed two late 3-point attempts.

Posey also had 11 rebounds, and Jason Williams scored 22 points in the Grizzlies' sixth straight victory. Memphis is now 5-0 in overtime games, 13-2 this month and an NBA-best 24-5 since Feb. 1.

Posey said his 3-pointer at the end of the first overtime was a planned play.

"I told Shane (Battier) I was going to go up the sideline and to hit me," Posey said. "I saw a second was on the clock and I was going to give it a chance. It felt good, but a lot of shots feel good and don't go in."

Stephen Jackson led the Hawks with 28 points. The 269 combined points surpassed by seven the total between Atlanta and Washington when the Hawks beat the Wizards 138-124 on March 12.

Knicks 92, Trail Blazers 91

NEW YORK - Vin Baker make a jump hook over the outstretched arm of Theo Ratliff, the league's leading shot blocker, with 38 seconds left to give New York a three-point lead that held up in a victory over Portland.

Tim Thomas returned after a four-game injury absence and scored 11 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter. Stephon Marbury added 23.

Damon Stoudamire had 20 points and Zach Randolph 19 for the Blazers.

Heat 105, Bulls 96

MIAMI - Caron Butler scored 12 of his season-high 30 points in the fourth quarter and pulled down a career-best 13 rebounds to lead Miami.

Dwyane Wade finished with 21 points as the Heat won their ninth consecutive home game. Kirk Hinrich scored 20 points to lead the Bulls, who have lost five straight games.

Celtics 84, Nets 80

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Paul Pierce overcame early foul trouble to score 18 of his 21 points in the second half for Boston.

Ricky Davis added 17, and Mark Blount had 16 points and 15 rebounds for the Celtics. Richard Jefferson led the Nets with 24 points and Lucious Harris added 18. The Nets played their sixth game without injured All-Stars Kenyon Martin and Jason Kidd and fell to 1-5 without them.

Timberwolves 94, Rockets 88

HOUSTON - Kevin Garnett scored six of his 27 points in the last two minutes, and Sam Cassell added 24 points for Minnesota.

Minnesota had lost four straight games in Houston since a 90-88 victory on Nov. 3, 2001.

Maurice Taylor, Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley had 17 points apiece for Houston.

Suns 101, Wizards 95

PHOENIX - Shawn Marion had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and came up big on defense late in the game to lead Phoenix.

Joe Johnson added 18 points and Amare Stoudemire 15 in the Suns' fourth win in six games. Marion blocked four shots.

Washington's Larry Hughes scored 32 points and Gilbert Arenas added 30.

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