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Cavaliers-Spurs Preview

AP - Sports

The San Antonio Spurs' average victory margin during their current six-game run is 19.1 points.

That figure pales in comparison to the margin of their rout of the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this month.

The Spurs can take another step toward clinching the best record in the Western Conference on Sunday night when they host the Cavaliers.

San Antonio (46-16) is one-half game ahead of Oklahoma City for the West's best mark and owns the tiebreaker over the Thunder. The Spurs maintained that gap with Friday's 121-97 home win over the Lakers, although their focus is clearly on what lies ahead.

"We've been playing pretty well but the playoffs, that's a situation where you have to do it night after night for a while," coach Gregg Popovich said.

Tim Duncan had 21 points and eight rebounds, Tony Parker had 20 points and 10 assists, and Manu Ginobili added 20 points and seven assists Friday. Those three players have combined to log 18 fourth-quarter minutes over the last four games, with rest a priority.

"That's our goal, to try and play our best basketball when the playoffs start," Parker said. "The main key is to stay healthy and to make sure everyone's fresh and I think that's Pop's main focus right now."

Parker and Duncan sat out the entire fourth quarter of a 125-90 win in Cleveland on April 3. That remains San Antonio's most lopsided victory since beating Golden State 123-98 on Dec. 6, 2008.

While the Spurs' stars can be expected to see limited minutes Sunday, Cleveland (21-41) may rest Kyrie Irving. The leading Rookie of the Year candidate has played twice since a nine-game absence due to a shoulder injury, and coach Byron Scott wants to protect him even though the point guard's impact on the team is obvious.

"He's a difference-maker," Scott said. "When he's on the floor, I think guys feel a little more comfortable and they know he's going to get things done."

Irving made a difference Friday with a game-high 21 points, and Manny Harris had 19 and a career-high 12 rebounds as the Cavaliers ended a three-game slide with a 98-90 home win over New York.

"I'm happy to play, but if (Scott) pulls me out, I understand completely," said Irving, whose 18.6 scoring average tops all rookies by a wide margin. "Getting a chance to get back out there, competing with my teammates again, felt good. Especially with the fan turnout we had. It was an amazing thing."

Friday's contest marked Irving's first home game since the blowout loss to the Spurs earlier this month. San Antonio built a 14-point lead after one quarter and went on to outscore Cleveland 18-0 in fast-break points.

Parker had 19 points and five assists in 22 minutes in his first matchup with Irving, who made 5 of 15 shots for 13 points. The Cavs surrendered their highest point total all season in their fourth straight loss to the Spurs.

San Antonio shouldn't be any easier to slow down Sunday, having averaged 120.0 points in the past four games. The Spurs have shot 59.8 percent from the field over the last three after hitting a season-high 61.0 percent Friday.

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