SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama has received a lot of attention during his stellar rookie season, but the Cleveland Cavaliers’ big men wanted to remind everyone they are pretty good, too.
Donovan Mitchell scored 31 points, Evan Mobley had 28 points and 10 rebounds, and the Cavaliers routed the Spurs 117-99 on Saturday night.
Jarrett Allen had 26 points and 16 rebounds and Mitchell added eight rebounds and seven assists to help Cleveland win its fifth straight and 13th in 14 games.
“It’s always a competition when you hear about a guy that we all feel can be, probably will be, one of the faces of the league or the face of the league,” Mitchell said. “For Ev and J, but especially Ev being around the same age and kind of coming up together. You want to send a message for sure.”
Wembanyama had 19 points and 14 rebounds for San Antonio. Devin Vassell led the Spurs with 22 points, and Keldon Johnson had 17.
The Spurs have lost four straight and 10 of 13 to remain at the bottom of the Western Conference at 10-40.
Cleveland led by 26 points in the fourth quarter, but the lopsided victory didn’t end without drama.
Mitchell and San Antonio’s Zach Collins were ejected with 54.7 seconds remaining after the Cleveland All-Star leapt up to push Collins in the face and chest after taking an elbow to the head on a moving screen from the center.
“The kid was upset at a play that happened before, and he retaliated,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “… Donovan did what Donovan does, he stood up for himself. I understand the rule, but if a guy takes a cheap shot on you, again you should be able to protect yourself.”
Mitchell said he could not recall any prior run-ins with Collins, but wanted to make sure there would be none in the future.
“He just hit me in the face,” Mitchell said. “I felt like it was dirty, so I just pushed him back. I knew I was probably going to get ejected, but it’s my second or third time getting ejected. If you push me, I push you back.”
The Spurs looked like a team playing the second night of a back-to-back and fourth game in six nights. San Antonio’s only lead lasted 33 seconds at 11-10 following a 15-foot jumper by Collins with 6:51 left in the opening quarter.
“We didn’t have as much juice as last night, obviously,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. That’s three in four nights and three weekends in a row and it’s starting to show.”
Cleveland led by double digits throughout the second quarter and opened a 60-40 advantage on Mitchell’s 3-pointer with 2:37 left in the first half.
The Cavaliers used their overall size advantage on a series of consecutive plays at the rim in the opening quarter.
“Their length and physicality poses a big problem, and so does their talent,” Popovich said.
Mobley opened with a dunk in front of Wembanyama two minutes into the game. On the ensuing possession, Mitchell blocked a short jumper while it was still in Sochan’s hands. Mobley and Allen followed with layups in front of Wembanyama to put the Cavaliers up 10-6 with 8:35 remaining in the first quarter.
“They came out from the jump,” Mitchell said. “Evan Mobley set the tone. That was big for us. Evan Mobley set the tone for us offensively defensively. Jarrett Allen did the same.”
Cleveland had 36 points in the paint in the first half while San Antonio had 22.
Wembanyama responded with a pair of 3-pointers, including a step-back 3-pointer he set up with a crossover dribble against Allen.
Wembanyama finished 2 for 4 on 3-pointers and 5 for 16 from the field.
The Spurs completed a seven-game homestand with a 2-5 record. San Antonio begins a nine-game trip Wednesday in Miami.
Cavaliers: Host Sacramento on Monday night.
Spurs: At Miami on Wednesday night.
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba