CLEVELAND (AP) — Rude and ruthless, the San Antonio Spurs ruined Cleveland’s 37-year wait to host the NBA finals.
Unwelcome guests, they defied the young King and may soon take home another crown of their own.
Bruce Bowen, the defensive stopper, emerged as an unlikely offensive star as the Spurs moved within one win of their fourth championship in nine years with a 75-72 win over the Cavaliers on Tuesday night to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series.
And they did it with only two-thirds of their Big 3 doing what they usually do in one of the lowest-scoring games in finals history.
Tony Parker scored 17 points and Tim Duncan had 14, but Manu Ginobili, who scored 25 in Game 2, had just three — all free throws in the final 10.4 seconds — to hold off the Cavaliers and crush the hopes of their towel-waving crowd, who had never before seen their team play a finals game in person.
Cleveland’s chances, and maybe their last hopes of extending the season ended when LeBron James, who led the Cavaliers with 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, was short with a 3-pointer in the final seconds.
Bowen, who had just nine points in the first two games, scored 13 and Brent Barry made three 3-pointers for the Spurs, who can all but plan their victory parade as no team has ever overcome an 0-3 deficit.
The Spurs can wrap up their third title in five years with a win in Game 4 on Thursday night. If they do complete the eighth sweep in finals history, they’ll join the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls as the only franchises to win four or more titles.
The grind-it-out game tied for the second fewest points in NBA finals history, matching San Antonio’s 80-67 win over the New York Knicks in 1999.
James, the 22-year-old who saved Cleveland’s franchise, couldn’t rescue this series.
He scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, threatening to take over as he did in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Detroit, with drives through the teeth of San Antonio’s smothering defense.