San Antonio Spurs extend unbeaten home record as Bulls gored

Friday March 11 2016

Benny, the mascot of the Chicago Bulls, entertains young fans siting courtside as the Bulls take on the Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center on March 7, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. PHOTO | JONATHAN DANIEL |

Benny, the mascot of the Chicago Bulls, entertains young fans siting courtside as the Bulls take on the Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center on March 7, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. PHOTO | JONATHAN DANIEL |  AFP

By AFP
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LOS ANGELES

LeBron James won his final encounter with Kobe Bryant as the Cleveland Cavaliers eased past the Los Angeles Lakers 120-108 Thursday in the last regular season meeting between the two NBA icons.

James finished with 24 points, seven assists and five rebounds as the Cavaliers wrapped up their fifth win in six games to improve to 46-18. Kyrie Irving top scored for the Cavs with 26 points in what was ultimately a comfortable win at the Staples Centre.

Bryant, who is retiring from the NBA at the end of the season, left the court to a standing ovation towards the end of the fourth quarter with chants of "Kobe, Kobe" echoing around the venue.

Bryant took some satisfaction from an impressive individual display which saw him score 26 points off 11-of-16 shooting.

However, it was not enough to prevent the Lakers slipping to four straight defeats to Cleveland. The Lakers are now 14-52 for the season.

Elsewhere Thursday, Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points as the San Antonio Spurs preserved their 100 percent record at home this season with a 109-101 win over the Chicago Bulls.

The Spurs were given some anxious moments when Chicago cut San Antonio's lead from 10 points to 90-87 with 8:36 to play but the hosts rallied again to notch their 31st home win of the season.

A tip-in dunk from Danny Green and a jumper by Tony Parker allowed San Antonio to pull clear at 104-92, leaving San Antonio to close out a deserved victory at the AT&T Centre.

READY FOR PLAY-OFFS

San Antonio have now won 40 straight home games in regular season including the latter part of last season, the fourth best unbeaten home run in NBA history.

The Golden State Warriors hold the record for most consecutive home victories, currently standing at 46 dating back to the 2014-2015 campaign.

French star Parker, meanwhile, chipped in with 20 points and a season-best 12 assists for San Antonio, who improved to 55-10.

Parker said the Spurs had benefitted from a two-day rest following their road trip, adding that the performance augured well for the playoffs.

"I felt good — I felt like I had my legs tonight," Parker said.

"We are getting closer and closer to the postseason and this game definitely had a playoff feel to it."

For the Bulls, Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol both scored 21 points each while E'Twaun Moore added 20 points.

The match also marked another milestone for Tim Duncan, who became only the sixth player in NBA history to amass 15,000 rebounds. Duncan's mark came with 6:56 left in the first quarter when Mike Dunleavy Jr. missed a jump shot.

It was Duncan's second record in a matter of weeks, following his 3,000th career block on February 27.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich returned to the bench after missing the previous two games due to a "family medical emergency." Popovich missed the trip to Indiana and Minnesota which finished 1-1.

Chicago, meanwhile, were left fuming at coughing up 21 turnovers which proved costly, with San Antonio scoring 16 points as a result.

"You shoot yourself in the foot giving up so many extra opportunities," said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg.

"We just tried to go down and hit home runs when we gotta go down and make the right play," Hoiberg added. "When you turn the ball over and don't get a shot up on the board, (San Antonio) is going to make you pay for it."