By Santosh Venkataraman
Posted Apr 8, 2012 11:59PM
The San Antonio Spurs cruised to their 11th straight win in the opener of this home-and-home set against the Utah Jazz. Maintaining the streak isn't important to coach Gregg Popovich.
Popovich continues to reiterate that prioritizing health is his focus in the season's final month as the visiting Spurs try to defeat the Jazz for the seventh straight time Monday night.
San Antonio (40-14) led by as many as 19 points in a 114-104 home victory Sunday over Utah (29-28). The Spurs have matched their longest run of the season from Jan. 30-Feb. 20, and are percentage points ahead of Oklahoma City for the Western Conference's best record.
None of that matters to Popovich, who continues to rest players with starting center DeJuan Blair out Sunday. The coach has been breaking the news about who will play prior to tipoff for the Spurs, who last won 12 straight Nov. 1-24, 2010.
"He's telling before who he's not going to play," said guard Tony Parker, who had a game-high 28 points. "We all have to be ready."
Manu Ginobili said in the locker room he didn't know if he was even traveling to Salt Lake City. Ginobili had 23 points - with a season-high 14 made free throws - in his best game since returning from a broken hand in March.
"I haven't been going to the line often this year," said Ginobili, who has scored 23 both times he has faced the Jazz this season. "Utah is a team that fouls a lot usually as they play hard. Against them, you usually have the opportunity to go to the line more often."
The Jazz are eager to get another chance to face the West's best team, hoping their 64 second-half points will give them momentum Monday.
"Our fans are going to be ready to help us out but the second half proved that we can play with these guys," said center Al Jefferson, who had 19 points and 10 boards. "We played them pretty good tonight but we are a young team. We made mistakes and they don't really make too many mistakes."
The Jazz, who are 1 1/2 games out of the West's final playoff spot, won't return home healthy. C.J. Miles is scheduled to undergo an MRI after he left in the second quarter with a strained left calf, and Earl Watson sat out the second half with a right knee strain.
"We're just going to have to go with what we have," coach Ty Corbin said. "Our guys have been tremendous about responding all year and we expect that to continue."
Devin Harris had 18 points and six assists, but struggled to defend Parker.
"He is a tough guy to play against," Harris said. "When he gets to the paint and how he gets to the free throw line like he does, it makes him tough to guard. The Spurs run a lot of good things for him and he is an All-Star for a reason, but we get to see him again tomorrow."
That may not be the case. When asked if everyone was making the trip to Utah, Popovich said, "That's none of your business."
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