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Cleveland’s alarm clock for The Finals finally went off Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

After sleepwalking through the early stages of the first two games of their series with the San Antonio Spurs, the Cavaliers produced an inspired if not picturesque effort in the first half of Game 3.

And it still didn’t matter. The Spurs slugged out a 75-72 win to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Cleveland is the rock ’n’ roll city. However, the Cavs had been more elevator music than heavy metal through two games of The Finals. No intensity. No passion.

Their fear of the moment seemed to put their feet in cement. How many times in San Antonio did the Spurs beat Cleveland to loose balls?

“They’re just kicking our behind. There’s nothing to it,” Cleveland Head Coach Mike Brown said before Tuesday’s game. “They’re getting to those long rebounds quicker than we are. We’re not putting bodies on bodies when it comes to boxing guys out, and that’s what they’re doing on the other end.”

Brown realized the importance of a strong start Tuesday.

“But again, it’s a 48-minute game, and we have to make sure that we’re playing for 48 minutes,” he said. “We can’t have any lulls whatsoever, especially against this team. Because if you do, they’ll make you pay for every single mistake that you make.”

That lull came late in the first half. A fastbreak layup by Daniel Gibson from Sasha Pavlovic had the Cavs up 38-30 — Cleveland’s biggest lead of the series — with 2:50 left in the second quarter.

Compounding the Spurs’ problems was the absence of Tim Duncan, who picked up his third foul shortly after LeBron James was hit with his third.
But a 10-0 run, capped by point guard Tony Parker’s floater at the buzzer, closed the half and gave the Spurs a 40-38 lead.

“If our big guy is down, it’s an opportunity for the rest of us to step up,” Spurs forward Bruce Bowen said after hitting three three-pointers in the first half. “Who knows who can make a name for themselves?”

Entering Tuesday, the Spurs were 10-2 in the playoffs when leading at the half.

“We don’t really have that as part of our game plan like we want to jump on somebody in the first quarter,” San Antonio Head Coach Gregg Popovich said. “We just talk about playing well and what we want to do, and we try to concentrate on executing what we do more than anything, and we hope that if we do that, we’re at least in the ballpark by the end of the first quarter.”

In the ballpark? The Spurs had been standing on home plate in the first two games.

During Sunday’s Game 2, Brown sat James after he picked up two early fouls. The Spurs turned that into a 28-17 lead heading to the second.

Even with James back on the floor, the Spurs stretched their lead to 58-33 at the half.

On Tuesday, James set the tone early — as in three hours early.

James arrived at The Q just before 6 p.m., trailed by a media crew. The shades he wore gave a feeling of Hollywood cool. But there was a sense of urgency as well. James wanted to get some extra shooting in, similar to what he did before Games 3 and 4 of the Detroit series.

He wore a sleeveless “Witness” shirt as he worked up a sweat for 27 minutes, shooting jumpers from various spots.

Brown was asked if he worried James would waste too much energy.

“Whatever it takes,” Brown said.

Against the Spurs, it takes so much more.

Reach Repository sports writer Josh Weir at (330) 580-8426 or e-mail: josh.weir@cantonrep.com.