The Spurs visit the Heat on Tuesday night in a matchup of teams that have played well despite some recent hardship.
With the season winding down, this is an ideal time for San Antonio (39-25) and Miami (35-32) to be gaining momentum. Many other teams may have folded under the pressure they have faced.
Spurs starting point guard Tony Parker(notes) is out for the rest of the regular season after breaking his right hand March 6. Without him, San Antonio has gotten outstanding play from George Hill(notes).
Hill backed up Parker as a rookie last season, became a starting shooting guard in mid-January and has now slid back to point guard to fill Parker’s spot. He had 14 points and a career-high 11 assists before resting down the stretch of San Antonio’s 118-88 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night, the Spurs sixth win in seven games.
San Antonio is in seventh place in the Western Conference, one-half game ahead of Portland and 5 1/2 ahead of Memphis.
In a display of just how trusted Hill has become, coach Gregg Popovich called timeout midway through the fourth quarter and handed the clipboard to Hill, who had left the game for good with 2:41 left in the third.
“Sometimes it’s good to let the players do some of the coaching,” Popovich said. “It makes them think a little bit and really give them confidence in what we’re doing as a group.”
Hill said Popovich wants him to be more like Avery Johnson, a former San Antonio point guard who went on to become an NBA coach. The Spurs’ first-round pick in 2008, Hill is averaging 16.6 points while shooting 63.2 percent (12 for 19) from 3-point range over his last seven games.
Heat point guard Rafer Alston(notes) has been suspended for the rest of the season after leaving the team two weeks ago. He had apparently been upset about being demoted from a starting role, but there have been reports that a recent suicide attempt by his twin sister may have contributed to his sudden departure.
Meanwhile, Miami swingman Dorell Wright(notes) will be available to face San Antonio, five days after being arrested on a driving under the influence charge. He was suspended by the team for two games.
The Heat have also played the last two games without second-leading scorer Michael Beasley(notes), who has been nursing a thigh injury. Beasley, though, is expected to return, and he’ll be a welcome addition to a Miami team that has thrived despite its misfortune.
The Heat have won six of seven and six straight at home for the first time since a 13-game streak in the 2006-07 season.
“Coming out of the All-Star break we expected to go on a run,” Dwyane Wade(notes) told the Heat’s official Web site. “We looked at our schedule and we understood that the toughest part was behind us.”
Miami, which beat Philadelphia 104-91 on Sunday, is tied with Charlotte for sixth place in the East, two games ahead of Toronto and three ahead of Chicago.
The Heat lost 108-78 to the Spurs on Dec. 31, with Wade being limited to 16 points on 6-for-18 shooting.