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Ginobili Scores 46 As Spurs Edge Cavs

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[February 14, 2008]  CLEVELAND (AP) -- Manu Ginobili made a career-high eight 3-pointers and scored a season-high 46 points as the San Antonio Spurs, back on the floor where they won the NBA title last season, downed the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-105 on Wednesday night.

Hitting shots from every corner of the floor, Ginobili scored 18 points in the fourth quarter, making 4-of-4 3-pointers. The Spurs went 7-of-8 on 3s and shot a blistering 78 percent (14-of-18) in the final 12 minutes.

Even when San Antonio missed, and that wasn't often, the Spurs outhustled the Cavaliers to loose balls.

Tim Duncan added 23 points and 13 rebounds for the Spurs, who completed their annual rodeo road trip at 6-3.

LeBron James scored 39 points -- 18 in the fourth -- but Cleveland's superstar was again no match for the Spurs, who swept the Cavaliers in last June's finals. James added nine assists and six rebounds in 43 minutes.

Larry Hughes added 26 points for the Cavs, who went ahead 91-89 on James' 3-pointer with 5:57 remaining.

That's when Ginobili, who also had eight assists and five rebounds, began taking target practice.

The Argentinean's second 3-pointer of the period made it 92-91, and after James gave the Cavaliers their final lead at 95-94 with a layup, San Antonio defensive specialist Bruce Bowen made a 3-pointer and Ginobili drained another.

After James misfired on a 3, Ginobili drained his fourth 3 of the quarter to make it 103-95 with 3:10 left, a shot that drew gasps from the sellout crowd.

Ginobili, who was coming off a 34-point performance in a win over Toronto, has made 19 3-pointers in his past three games while helping the Spurs offset the absence of guard Tony Parker. The finals MVP missed his eighth straight game with a bone spur in his left heel.

With Ginobili shooting like this, Parker can take as long as he needs to get well.

It didn't seem to matter where the smooth left-hander's shots came from, they all hit the bottom of the net.

While getting swept in his first trip to the finals by the Spurs was tough, it didn't crush James.

[to top of second column]

"It definitely hurt to lose and not being able to compete the way we had," he said before the game. "But we got beat by a better team. They were head and shoulders better than us, so it wasn't a hard pill for me to swallow.

"If it was a team we knew we should have beat, it would have been hard."

James used the sweep as motivation in the offseason to get better and get back to the finals.

With Hughes making his first five shots, the Cavaliers controlled the Spurs for much of the first half. They opened a 12-point lead and were still ahead 47-40 when James ran down Duncan from behind and appeared to block the center's layup cleanly.

But James was called for a foul, and he compounded things when he was whistled for his first technical this season. Duncan made three free throws, hit a jumper and Ginobili made a free throw as San Antonio closed the first half with an 8-0 spurt to pull within 47-46 at the break.

Ginobili scored 18 points in the first half.

Notes: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wasn't sure how much James had improved since the end of last season. "I always thought he was ridiculously amazing," he said. ... Although he's among the leading candidates to win MVP honors, James feels he's a longshot. After all, Kobe Bryant's waiting for his first award. "I know I got no chance if Kobe Bryant has never won it," he said. ... Cavs G Daniel Gibson missed his fourth straight game a strained hamstring. ... Jason Kidd's apparent trade back to Dallas thrilled Cavs coach Mike Brown. "I don't mind those triple-doubles going over the West side."

[Associated Press; By TOM WITHERS]

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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