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Spurs tip off grueling season's final month in Cleveland

Spurs tip off grueling season's final month in Cleveland

Credit: Antonio Morano / Special to Kens5.com

The San Antonio Spurs continued their hot streak with a 112–103 triumph over the visiting Indiana Pacers on Saturday, March 31, 2012 at the AT&T Center. The win is the seventh in a row for the Spurs, which is the current longest winning streak in the NBA.

by David Flores / Kens5.com

kens5.com

Posted on April 3, 2012 at 11:34 AM

Updated Saturday, Nov 23 at 9:06 AM

Coach Gregg Popovich was succinct Saturday when he was asked about the final month of the Spurs' regular season, which begins with a road game against Cleveland on Tuesday night.

The Spurs, who play at Boston on Wednesday night, have five back-to-backs in April and one road trip when they play on three consecutive nights against Golden State, the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings.

Perhaps fittingly, they close the regular season with back-to-back road games.

"Sixteen games in 23 days," Popovich said, referring to what his team faces in the homestretch of an NBA season that was pared to 66 games because of the lockout.

Tuesday night's game against Cleveland (17-33) tips off at 6 p.m.

The Spurs (36-14) rolled past Indiana on Saturday for their seventh consecutive victory and ninth in their last 10 games. San Antonio, which won 11 consecutive games earlier in the season, has the league's longest active winning streak.

The Spurs are No. 2 in the Western Conference standings, trailing Oklahoma City by 21/2 games. San Antonio would play No. 7 seed Denver (29-24) in the first round of the playoffs if they started today.

Popovich's biggest challenge down the stretch will be persuading his best players to take a night off when they would rather play.

Spurs are league-best 23-5 over last two months

"We'll definitely have to rest guys along the way and not worry about what your positioning is," Popovich said. "If we don't have our health and our energy, we've got no shot. So that's going to be paramount in importance for us."

Popovich was direct when asked whether he's starting to feel comfortable playing Manu Ginobili in back-to-back games. Ginobili has struggled with injuries throughout most of the season, but appears to be rounding into playoff form with every game.

"I will never be comfortable playing Manu in a back-to-back," Popovich said. "I only do it when he beats me to a pulp and doesn't allow me to do what I really want to do. He intimidates me. And then I let him play once in a while in a back-to-back when I feel he's looking good and feeling good and he needs to get some conditioning, because he's still trying to get in good shape. He's still not there yet."

So, look for Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to take turns sitting on the bench in street clothes in April. And there could be nights when all three could have the night off.

Of course, Ginobili is a gamer. He'd rather play than sit, no matter what month it is.

"We know we're in the last stretch and that we've got to really click even more," Ginobili said. "We want to be the best team we can possibly be. I think we're on the right track."

The Spurs, who are a league-best 23-5 in the past two months, play home games against New Orleans on Friday night and Utah on Sunday night.

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