Spurs-Cavaliers Preview


The last time the San Antonio Spurs had a winning streak this long, coach Gregg Popovich gave two of his best players the night off and the result was the most lopsided loss of the season.

If Popovich decides to rest some regulars this time, the result could be far different as the Southwest Division-leading Spurs face the Cleveland Cavaliers - though the slumping last-place team should have Kyrie Irving back in the lineup.

San Antonio goes for an eighth consecutive victory Tuesday night as the host Cavs try to end their season-high seven-game skid.

With the Spurs (36-14) playing for the third time in four nights, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker didn't play as the team's 11-0 run - the league's longest surge this season - ended with a 137-97 loss at Portland on Feb. 21.

San Antonio split its next six games, but has won 10 of 11 to build a comfortable division lead over second-place Dallas.

The Spurs have showcased some great depth during their winning streak with seven players averaging at least 10.0 points. San Antonio's bench outscored Indiana's reserves 52-29 in Saturday's 112-103 victory.

"The more practice we get, the more we play together, I think we're realizing how deep this team is,'' said Stephen Jackson, who has averaged 9.7 points in seven contests since being acquired from Golden State.

The Spurs could continue to benefit from that depth as they play their final 16 regular-season games in the next 24 days. With a game at Boston on Wednesday, Popovich could give his backups extended playing time at Cleveland.

The Cavaliers (17-33), meanwhile, need all the healthy bodies they can get. Daniel Gibson (foot) is likely done for the season, center Anderson Varejao (wrist) has been out since Feb. 10 and Irving missed Saturday's 91-74 loss in New York due to a sprained right shoulder he suffered a night earlier.

It was originally believed Irving, who leads all rookies with 18.9 points per game, would sit out a second straight game after he didn't participate in any contact drills during Monday's practice. However, coach Byron Scott said his starting point guard participated in Tuesday morning's shootaround without any problems and that Irving told him he "feels great."

The Rookie of the Year favorite will wear a protective brace on his shoulder, Scott says.

Undrafted rookie Donald Sloan got his first career start Saturday in place of Irving, finishing with 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

"I thought Donald did a real great job running the show, getting guys the ball when they needed it," Scott told the Cavs' official website. "Being able to break down defenders and get to the basket."

Cleveland, though, will have to take better care of the ball as it tries to avoid its first eight-game losing streak since a league-record 26-game slide Dec. 20, 2010-Feb. 9, 2011. The Cavaliers committed 20 turnovers Saturday and have given the ball away 17.0 times per game since their last victory.

Irving has averaged 5.3 turnovers in his last four games.

San Antonio has had 8.9 steals per game during its winning streak.

The Spurs' 109-99 win March 2, 2011, was their third consecutive victory over the Cavs and ended a two-game skid in Cleveland.

These teams finish the season series April 22 in San Antonio.