Gameday Preview: Spurs vs. Cavaliers 3/16/13
The San Antonio Spurs are back in the playoffs and their run of 50-win seasons continues.
The Western Conference leaders, though, aren't without their flaws.
San Antonio goes for a seventh consecutive victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night when these teams close out their season series.
With Dallas' Vince Carter missing a 3-pointer in the final second on Thursday, San Antonio (50-16) opened its four-game homestand with a 92-91 victory. The Spurs also clinched a postseason spot for the 16th straight season and extended their NBA-record streak with at least 50 wins to 14.
Still, the Spurs have plenty of room for improvement. They've dropped two of four, with those defeats to Portland and Minnesota coming by a total of 54 points.
"We continued to play in mud like we have been for the last two weeks," said coach Gregg Popovich, whose team is averaging 87.5 points and shooting 39.8 percent in its last two contests. "I'm not sure what to attribute it to, but it's a fact."
Missing Tony Parker for the last six games probably has something to do with it. The All-Star point guard, who is having one of his best seasons with 21.0 points per game and 7.6 assists, is supposed to miss another two weeks with a Grade 2 left ankle sprain.
"We need to get the ball moving again, and people moving again, try to push it a little bit more," Manu Ginobili said after Friday's practice. "Of course without Tony it's a little harder, because this season we got used to relying on him a lot, but now he's not here, he's going to miss a few more games and we've got to keep winning."
The Spurs, 27-4 at home, haven't lost to Cleveland (22-43) since March 8, 2010, after a 3-pointer by Kawhi Leonard with 2.9 seconds left was the difference in a 96-95 victory on Feb. 13.
San Antonio was playing with Parker, Ginobili and Tim Duncan for the first time in exactly a month due to injuries to its Big Three.
Duncan, who missed Tuesday's 25-point loss at the Timberwolves with a sore knee, said he's feeling better after scoring 28 points and coming one rebound shy of his 22nd 20-20 game on Thursday.
"The pain (in the knee) is gone and I'm starting to feel like I can actually play the game," Duncan said.
While Popovich can lean on Duncan, Ginobili, Leonard and many others to pick up the slack with Parker out, Cavs coach Byron Scott doesn't have that same luxury with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving possibly done for the season with a sprained left shoulder.
With their best scorer and distributor gone, the Cavs have to limit mistakes. They committed six of their 18 turnovers in the fourth quarter of Friday's 96-86 loss at Dallas and were outscored 29-18 during that 12-minute stretch.
"I thought we got a little upset at ourselves at the way we were defending," Scott said. "We kind of let that affect us on the other end."
Rookie guard Dion Waiters, though, finished with 21 points to reach 20 in a season high-tying three straight games. With Irving held to a season-low six points, the No. 4 overall pick scored a team-best 20 in last month's loss to San Antonio.
The Spurs, 10-1 at home against East opponents, have won three in a row with the Cavs in town by an average of 15.0 points.
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