Heat next to try and cool lava-hot Spurs
Nothing much these days has been stopping -- or even slowing down -- San Antonio, which is rolling into the final 11 games of the NBA season like a powerful and loaded freight train.
The Miami Heat will be the next team to try to pull the brake on the Spurs' express, but will have to be at their best to keep from being the latest opponent to be pushed off the tracks when the two teams square off on Wednesday at the AT&T Center in the Alamo City.
San Antonio (42-29) has won nine straight games, with its most recent victory a 111-105 dismantling of defending NBA-champion Golden State at home on Monday. DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points, and LaMarcus Aldridge added 23 points and 13 rebounds in the victory.
The Spurs led by four points heading into the final quarter and were never headed over the final 12 minutes, building as much as a nine-point advantage and repelling each of the Warriors' attempts to take charge.
"We worked very hard," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the win over Golden State's band of stars. "We made a lot of mistakes against the best team in basketball, probably.
"They move and cut better than anybody in the world. So, it was a great classroom, so to speak, to be able to try to guard that all night long. The effort was there for 48 minutes and we learned a lot hopefully, so that's a good thing."
The win allowed the Spurs to improve to a season-best 13 games over .500 and clinched the franchise's 22nd consecutive winning campaign, extending its own NBA record.
Rudy Gay added 17 points for the Spurs while Derrick White and Patty Mills hit for 12 and 10 points, respectively, for San Antonio.
The Spurs haven't lost since falling to Brooklyn 101-85 on Feb. 25 in the last game of its annual Rodeo Road Trip. They have 11 games left in the regular season -- five at home and six on the road.
"We are just figuring it out," Aldridge said. "Guys are playing better and we are trying to be better defensively. Our communication has been better. It's just winning time and everybody senses that, which is why everyone is trying to play better and figure it out."
The Heat travel south into San Antonio after a 116-107 win at Oklahoma City on Monday that marked Miami's seventh win in its past nine games. The Thunder played without All-Star guard Russell Westbrook, was sat out the game with a suspension after receiving his 16th technical foul.
Goran Dragic racked up 26 points and 11 assists with zero turnovers for the Heat (34-36), while Dwyane Wade added 25 points in 33 minutes, which is the second-most minutes he's played in his final NBA season.
"You know, what are we saving him for?" Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told the Miami Herald. "We have 3 1/2 weeks left in the regular season. We've load-managed him all season long. Let's just go for it. He wants to play. I want him to play. We need him."
Led by Dragic and Wade, the Heat's bench outscored the Thunder's bench 67-10. Reserve forward James Johnson hit for 14 points for Miami in the win.
"When you're able to bring experienced players like that into the game, I say it: 'They don't get sick at sea,'" Spoelstra said. "They've seen everything, and that just gives you kind a calm to be able to execute and try to get something coherent."
With Monday's win, the Heat strengthened its hold on the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot to 1 1/2 games over the Orlando Magic with 12 regular-season games to play.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 20, 2019