CLEVELAND (AP) — Donovan Mitchell scored 41 points and led the Cleveland Cavaliers to their seventh straight win, 117-109 on Monday night over the nose-diving San Antonio Spurs, who matched a team record with their 13th consecutive loss.
Mitchell made five 3-pointers and scored 23 in the first half, helping the Cavs build an 18-point lead. Cleveland’s advantage grew to 21, but the Spurs fought back and got within four in the fourth before fading.
Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff was not happy with his team’s performance.
“We didn’t play to our standard, it’s that simple,” he said. “We didn’t do the things we needed to to do at the level we’re used to doing them at. We got lucky to get away with a win. We’ve been better in these moments, tonight just wasn’t our best.”
San Antonio’s slide equals the longest in club history. The Spurs also lost 13 straight during the 1988-89 season. Coincidentally, that streak also reached 13 with a loss at Cleveland on March 2, 1989.
“We played a hell of a team,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “They play really strong defense, which is going to suit them well in the playoffs. There is no magic (solution) out there. We played the right way for three quarters. I’m really proud of our guys.”
Voted an Eastern Conference starter for this week’s All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, where he spent five seasons with the Jazz, Mitchell, who sat out last year’s event in Cleveland due to an illness, finished 16 of 26 from the field.
Like his coach, Mitchell didn’t like the way the Cavs played.
“Sometimes when you have success, you have lapses,” he said. “We played a team to their record and that can’t happen. So for us, take this as a learning lesson. We can’t really play around. We came here just expecting things to go well.”
Jarrett Allen added 17 points and had 11 rebounds as Cleveland improved to 25-6 at home. Evan Mobley had 15 points and 10 boards.
Keldon Johnson scored 25 and rookie Malaki Branham 18 to pace the Spurs, who are just 2-20 in 2023.
The Spurs, who haven’t won since Jan. 17, stunned the Cavs at home in December, beating Cleveland 112-111.
But the Cavs weren’t taking any chances for a repeat, and as has been the case during this winning streak, Cleveland’s starters set the tone early.
Mitchell, Allen (13) and Mobley (10) combined for 46 of Cleveland’s 65 points in the first half.
Once Danny Green clears waivers, the veteran will sign with the Cavaliers, who didn’t make a move at the trade deadline but jumped at the chance to grab the three-time NBA champion.
Green was drafted by Cleveland in 2009.
Bickerstaff couldn’t comment specifically on Green, but said adding a player with postseason experience (165 games) to a young team is invaluable.
“You listen to those guys, guys who have been to the mountaintop and won championships and played in those type of games,” he said.
Following the game, Green, who spent eight seasons with the Spurs, visited with some of his former colleagues.
Spurs: Popovich, who is in his 27th season as Spurs coach, will likely be named a Hall of Fame finalist on Friday during All-Star festivities. While Popovich has been a fixture with San Antonio, the league’s other franchises have cycled through 294 coaches. … The Spurs aren’t accustomed to losing streaks of any length. They have the best winning percentage (.609) in league history and the second-highest percentage for any team in the four major pro sports since 1997.
Cavaliers: Cleveland won eight straight in the first two weeks of the season. … F Kevin Love was active but didn’t play for the eighth game in a row. The Cavs insist they don’t intend to discuss a buyout with the 34-year-old. “There’s going to be times where we really need him,” Bickerstaff said.
Spurs: At Charlotte on Wednesday.
Cavaliers: At Philadelphia on Wednesday.