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Sputtering Spurs visit streaking Cavaliers

Dec 12, 2022; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) dribbles past San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) in the second half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers will look for their seventh consecutive win Monday night when they host the slumping San Antonio Spurs.

Cleveland improved to 6-0 in February with a 97-89 home defeat of the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.

The stout defensive showing marked the Cavaliers’ sixth game holding an opponent to fewer than 90 points this season, as they continue to boast the league’s top scoring defense at 105.9 points allowed per game.

“We could have easily chalked this one up (as a loss),” Cleveland star Donovan Mitchell said after the win. “… We just weren’t making shots, we weren’t getting back on defense. And then for us to come in at the half, make the adjustments and hold them to, was it 40 points in the second half?

“It just speaks to our will to win this whole week, just different things and the way we’ve won this week in different ways. I think it just shows what we’re capable of and different guys stepping up every night.”

Mitchell finished with 29 points and 10 assists against the Bulls.

His 26.9 points per game lead Cleveland for the season, but over the course of the Cavaliers’ current winning streak, Darius Garland has stepped up to lead the team with 32 points Feb. 2 against Memphis; 24 points Feb. 5 at Indiana; and matching Jarrett Allen’s 23 points Feb. 6 vs. Washington.

Allen also scored a team-high 20 points Feb. 8 against Detroit, the first in a current, three-game stretch of 20-point, 10-rebound double-doubles that extended with Saturday’s 23 points and 10 boards.

Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff praised the team’s collective efforts on Saturday, saying that in the NBA, “The competition is formidable … every night, no matter what your record or your opponent’s record may be.”

Monday’s contest puts that concept to the test, as San Antonio limps into Cleveland riding a 12-game losing streak after its 125-106 defeat Saturday at Atlanta.

The blowout loss came one night after dropping a 138-131 decision in double-overtime at Detroit. The game against the Cavaliers marks the midway point of the Spurs’ annual rodeo road trip.

San Antonio was active at last week’s trade deadline amid the nine-game road swing, acquiring Devonte’ Graham from Charlotte, who scored 31 points off the bench in Detroit.

“Optimistic about it,” Graham told the San Antonio Express-News about joining the Spurs. “I have always been good at adjusting. Grateful to be around this franchise, a legendary coach (Gregg Popovich) and this young group.”

San Antonio also added Khem Birch in a trade that moved Jakob Poeltl — part of the deal that sent Kawhi Leonard to Toronto in 2018 — back to the Raptors. Birch has not played since Dec. 29.

Keldon Johnson, San Antonio’s leading scorer on the season at 21.8 points per game, has scored at least 21 points in his last three appearances after finishing with 25 Saturday in Atlanta.

–Field Level Media