SAN ANTONIO - The NBA playoffs don't start for another two and a half weeks, but fans watching Monday night's Cavaliers-Spurs clash could be in for a treat if the game comes anywhere close to generating the excitement of the teams' only other meeting this season.
The late-season glamour match-up in San Antonio fizzled out as the Spurs took control in the first quarter thanks not only to stars like Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge but also to stellar play from their reserves.
He stayed there for several scary minutes before making his way to the bench and, with the Cavs trailing 58-81 going into the fouth quarter, did not return to the court.
James said he didn't think the Cavs' schedule or rash of injuries - Love is still coming back from knee surgery, Iman Shumpert (knee) and Kyle Korver (foot) sat out Monday - should be used as an excuse.
James, 32, is now averaging 37.5 minutes per game, second in the National Basketball Association only to Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who has missed the team's last 17 games.
The Cavaliers connected on just 37.3 percent of their shots from the floor and for the first time since November 2015 fell out of first place in the Eastern Conference as their record fell to 47-26.
"Coach is going to have his logic of things, but at the end of the day, we need to play", James said.A well-oiled machine like this, they exploit everything that you're not doing well at that point in time in the season, and right now we're just not playing good basketball. "They just look so much faster than we are". "With those two guys out, we tried some different things and it didn't work. We've got to figure it out".
The Spurs, still two-and-a-half games behind the Golden State Warriors (59-14), will have a last-dash opportunity this week to claim the No. 1 seed before the end of the regular season.
The Spurs' bench contributed mightily to the surge, outscoring Cleveland's reserves 15-0, with Ginobili scoring seven straight points, hitting a layup and Gasol pouring in a 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds to play.
Thunder 92, Mavericks 91: Russell Westbrook and visiting Oklahoma City erased a 13-point deficit in the final four minutes and guaranteed the first losing record for Dallas in 17 full seasons under owner Mark Cuban. Danny Green tied his season high with four blocked shots. The final score was 103-74, which is obviously bad.
"Very unexpected, the whole play, when he threw it I said I cant believe he did throw it and then, well it went in", said Ginobili. "We're trying to be consistent".
Elsewhere, the playoff-bound Toronto Raptors posted their sixth straight victory, 131-112 over the Orlando Magic. O'Neal has 28,596 career points.
Mike Conley had 22 points and nine assists for the Grizzlies, and Zach Randolph added 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Knicks 109, Pistons 95: Derrick Rose scored 27 points, Kristaps Porzingis had 25 and host NY snapped a five-game losing streak and handed Detroit its fourth straight loss, falling 1½ games behind Miami for the eighth East playoff spot.