Spurs @ Suns Preview: 2/27/13
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The San Antonio Spurs own the NBA's best record and are aiming for their third consecutive top seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Playing 13 of their next 15 games at home with many against sub-.500 competition - including Wednesday night's contest with the Phoenix Suns - may help them move closer to accomplishing that goal.
San Antonio (45-13) is a league-best 22-2 at home and is coming off a 7-2 road trip after beating the Suns 97-87 on Sunday. It has won 18 straight at the AT&T Center, with the last defeat coming Nov. 19 in a 92-87 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Coach Gregg Popovich was happy the trip ended on a positive note knowing his team was looking forward to heading home.
"It was a great trip," Popovich said. "I thought the guys kept good focus on the road here in the last game. You know they all want to go home and I thought they did a fine job."
With Tony Parker out due to a sore right triceps, Kawhi Leonard and Patrick Mills each scored a team-high 16 points - role-player contributions Popovich has come to expect.
"We've had to do it quite a bit this year as far as having one, two or three guys out," Popovich said. "So the bench has gotten a good look and I think they have gained some good confidence through all that."
Parker, making his case for MVP with his stellar play, hopes to return Wednesday. He's averaging 27.7 points over his last seven games.
"As long as there aren't any setbacks or it doesn't feel right - Pop doesn't want me to take any risks," said Parker, who hit 13 of 17 from the field and scored 31 points in the Spurs' 108-99 home win over the Suns on Jan. 26. "It feels great to be home. (We will) try and not take it for granted and make sure we play well."
Seven of the Spurs' next nine game are against sub.-500 teams, including four on this six-game homestand. After a road date with Minnesota on March 12, they'll return home to face Dallas and Cleveland.
They've beaten the Suns six straight times and own a seven-game home winning streak against Phoenix (19-39), which had lost seven of eight before Tuesday's 84-83 overtime win over Minnesota.
Marcin Gortat scored 14 points, including the tying bucket in regulation and a clutch basket in OT.
The Suns led by as many as 18 points, though, and interim coach Lindsey Hunter was disappointed they couldn't close out the win earlier.
"We made it a little tougher on ourselves, but we will take it," Hunter said. "We still just for some reason do not finish quarters the way we are supposed to."
Still, Phoenix is tied with Sacramento for the worst record in the West, and gladly will take any victory at this point.
"It feels great," said Goran Dragic, who had 10 points and seven assists.
Gortat scored 21 points while Dragic added 10 and 11 assists in Sunday's loss to the Spurs, but the Suns committed 20 turnovers. They are averaging just 87.6 points over their last seven, and Hunter knows his team can't afford giving the ball away to a San Antonio team scoring 104.3 points per contest.
"You play so hard and then you make one mistake against those guys and they make you pay," Hunter said after the last meeting. "That's what they do."
Phoenix is 2-12 on the end of back-to-backs this season.
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