SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs are halfway to a fourth NBA title. In their two victories over the Cleveland Cavaliers, they’ve looked dominant and composed.
They haven’t, however, forgotten 2005. That’s when they led the Detroit Pistons 2-0 and looked well on their way to the title but wound up needing seven games to win.
“We need to remember that and learn from our mistakes,” said Tony Parker, who led the Spurs with 30 points in their 103-92 Game 2 win Sunday. “I think that’s enough to make us get ready.”
In 2005, the Spurs won Games 1 and 2 at home with scores of 84-69 and 97-76.
Then they went to Detroit.
The Pistons beat the Spurs 96-79 in Game 3 then blew them out 102-71 in Game 4. The Spurs took Games 5 and 7 to win the crown.
“Hopefully, especially the guys that were in that finals, learn from that and we are more humble going into those games and play a better game,” said Manu Ginobili, who called the 2005 turn of events “really embarrassing.”
This time, the Spurs will head to Cleveland, where the entire city will be abuzz with the possibility that LeBron James can deliver. It’s the first time in the Cavs’ 37-year history they've gone to the finals.
“It’ll be a huge challenge,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “They’ve played well there, and I think they’ll feel a lot looser, a lot more aggressive in a lot of ways.”
Cleveland was down 0-2 in the Eastern Conference finals this year against Detroit before winning the next four games and a trip to the finals.
“They played good against Detroit and they came back, so we have to be aware of that,” Parker said.
The Spurs are taking pains not to put on airs over their first two wins. But the sizable lead in Game 2 — San Antonio was up by as many as 29 — makes it hard to look humble.
“Sometimes I don’t like to have a 20-point lead,” Parker said. “I’m not going to complain. It’ll take it. But sometimes it’s tough because it's the NBA. And Cleveland, they’ve got a lot of pride, and they made a hell of a run in the fourth quarter.”
The Cavs got as close as eight twice in the fourth quarter and opened the final 12 minutes on a 22-4 run that erased two-thirds of the 27-point deficit they had at the end of the third period. They outscored San Antonio 30-14 in the last quarter.
“We got too overconfident, and we stopped moving the ball offensively,” Ginobili said. “We’ve got to learn from that because we can’t get so relaxed, especially in the fourth quarter against a great team like Cleveland.”
On one hand, Parker noted, Cleveland’s late surge will give the Cavs confidence as they prepare for the games at home. On the other, it injected new motivation into the series for San Antonio and may help as the Spurs try to avoid a repeat of 2005.
“As I always say, we just took what was ours,” Ginobili said. “We just maintained the home-court advantage.”
It also provides Popovich with a reminder for his team.
“I’m concerned about every game. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the first game or the seventh game,” Popovich said. “So there’s no less concern for one game over another one. Coaches are paranoid that way. They worry about everything.”