SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Manu Ginobili was a winner in San Antonio. No way the Spurs were going to lose on his special night.
DeMar DeRozan scored 25 points and San Antonio celebrated Ginobili’s number retirement ceremony by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 116-110 on Thursday.
“Well, it will make for a better evening, for sure,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Collin Sexton had 24 points and Kevin Love added 18 as the lowly Cavaliers nearly put a damper on an emotional evening in San Antonio.
Ginobili became the ninth Spurs player to have his jersey retired, joining fellow Big Three teammate Tim Duncan as the most recently honored. The Argentine star spent his entire 16-year NBA career with San Antonio, winning four championships while wearing No. 20.
“It was good to feel that vibe and that energy in the building for something that’s bigger than our team,” Spurs guard Patty Mills said. “That’s what we are acknowledging tonight, someone who has sacrificed so much to this organization and has understood that the big picture is much bigger than himself.”
Bryn Forbes got the crowd going with a 3-pointer 13 seconds into the game, and the Spurs finished 14 for 33 from long range. Forbes scored 19 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 14.
San Antonio struggled offensively after the fast start but the crowd remained energized by video tributes to Ginobili.
The Spurs scored 40 points in the third quarter while shooting 73 percent from the field after managing just 17 points in the second.
“Being more aggressive,” DeRozan said. “We just came out with a more conscious effort of being aggressive. That’s what we did and we can’t wait to do that. We waited and made it tough on ourselves, but we pulled it through.”
Contributions from the bench helped the Spurs win as Ginobili and a host of former Spurs teammates like Duncan, Tony Parker, Bruce Bowen, David Robinson and others watched from the stands.
“You understand that you’ve got to play with passion and you’ve got to play with heart,” Mills said. “You have to play with your heart on your sleeve and that’s what Manu had done so well and what made him great.”
After Cleveland pulled to 111-110, Mills hit a 3-pointer off a drive and kick by DeRozan with 14 seconds remaining. Mills celebrated at midcourt and DeRozan ran behind him and embraced him as the Cavaliers called a timeout.
“Down the stretch when we needed to execute, we just didn’t,” Cleveland coach Larry Drew said. “There was a lot of dribbling, a lot of pounding, but we didn’t execute.”
Rudy Gay, another reserve, had an offensive rebound with 3 seconds left and made two free throws to seal the victory.
Marco Belinelli scored 16 points, Gay added 12 and Mills had 11.
Cavaliers: Have lost five straight to the Spurs. Cleveland’s last win in San Antonio came on March 12, 2015. … The Cavaliers are 31-63 overall against the Spurs.
Spurs: Aldridge and DeRozan have scored 1,500 points this season, becoming the first Spurs teammates to do so since Duncan and David Robinson in 1998. … San Antonio is 30-8 at home.
Ginobili has not decided if he will remain in basketball, but Popovich cringed when asked if he thought the future Hall of Famer could be an NBA coach one day.
“He’s too smart to do that,” Popovich said, drawing laughs. “I’m absolutely serious.
“He’s looked at everything and my guess is, if he stays in basketball, it will be more on management side. Management, scouting, putting the big pictures together. He doesn’t want to sit in the film room and watch pick-and-roll all day. That’s pretty boring.”
DeRozan’s one regret about joining the Spurs this season is that he didn’t get a chance to play with Ginobili before he retired.
“I wish I would have had a year to play with him, but to be able to witness this should be pretty cool,” DeRozan said about the ceremony.
DeRozan has now been a part of Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade’s warm send-off by the Spurs last week and Ginobili’s retirement ceremony.
“It’s an honor, man,” DeRozan said. “I’ve seen a lot of amazing things in my career this far. Seeing a lot of greats, playing against a lot of greats, seeing a lot of greats walk away with the respect and honor that they deserve, and tonight is another night for me to indulge and appreciate the opportunity.”
Cavaliers: At the Los Angeles Clippers tonight.
Spurs: Host the Sacramento Kings Sunday night.