Official Heat at Spurs Game Thread (6:00 pm)
6:00 PMBy TIM REYNOLDS
Miami (57 - 15)
San Antonio (55 - 17)
AP Basketball Writer
(AP) -- By the time the Miami Heat get on their plane to come home late Sunday night, they could have a stranglehold on the race to finish with the NBA's best record.
All they have to do is win at San Antonio. That, of course, is no easy task.
The Heat (57-15) take a two-game lead in the NBA standings over the Spurs (55-17) into their matchup on Sunday. A win would essentially provide Miami a four-game cushion with nine remaining, given that the Heat also would control any potential head-to-head tiebreaker with San Antonio.
If the Heat lose, the race for home-court advantage throughout the entirety of the playoffs could turn into a frantic, down-to-the-wire deal.
"It's always good to play the best, to play against the best," LeBron James said. "It'll be an opportunity for us. We just want to get better, man. The game Sunday doesn't define our season or how we go from there. We just want to continue to move forward and get better throughout the rest of the season."
Miami has won 28 of its last 29 games overall, getting back on the winning track at New Orleans on Friday, two days after Chicago snapped a 27-game Heat winning streak. But San Antonio has won 28 of its last 30 games at home, and facing the Spurs on the road is traditionally a painful expedition for many members of the Heat - as it tends to be for everyone else in the NBA.
Dwyane Wade is 1-4 at San Antonio, sitting out three other Heat losses there during his career. Chris Bosh is 1-7. James is 3-7. Shane Battier - a longtime player in the Western Conference - has enjoyed eight wins from the visitors' side when facing the Spurs, and also been on the losing end 16 times there.
"It's obviously a very, very, very good team," Wade said. "Very tough place to play, so I think our mentality and how we approach the game is going to be important. You just try to go out there and compete, as we do every night, try to get a great road win. It's not going to be easy but that's kind of what we enjoy."
The only other meeting between the clubs this season was Nov. 29 in Miami, a strange game in that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich - citing a desire to rest his best players at the end of a long road trip - sent Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green home before the game.
With guys like Patty Mills, Nando De Colo and Matt Bonner filling out the starting lineup - they've combined to make four other starts this season - the Spurs almost beat the Heat anyway, leading by five with 2:13 left before getting outscored 12-2 in a wild Miami finish that gave the Heat a 105-100 win.
Ginobili played just under three minutes in Friday night's win over the Los Angeles Clippers because of a strained right hamstring, and Popovich glumly said afterward he didn't expect him to be ready to face the Heat.
And on Saturday the Spurs made it official: Ginobili is out for the game, with no return date set.
The Spurs have won six of their last seven games. Of those six wins, only one came by double figures, an 11-point victory over Golden State. The average margin of the other five wins in that span, over Dallas, Cleveland, Utah, Denver and Clippers was 3.4 points, and the only loss was a one-pointer at Houston.
"It's great challenges, good preparation for us for the playoffs," Parker said. "Denver is a great team, Clippers a great team and now we've got Miami. They're the best in the league. They went on the unbelievable run and it's going to be another great game."
This game could have been one of the most-watched among regular-season games in years if Miami had not lost in Chicago on Wednesday. Had the Heat won there and won in New Orleans, as they did on Friday, they would have been going for their 30th straight win on this trip to San Antonio in what will be touted either way as a potential NBA Finals preview.
"I just want you to know the Heat are going to be just fine," said President Barack Obama, a noted Bulls fan during a stop in Miami on Friday. "They're going to be OK. They are playing basketball the right way."
The Heat streak is gone, but standings-wise, it's still a big deal.
"Very good team, obviously the defending champs," Duncan said. "I think they won 62 in a row or something like that. It'll be a great game. I know our crowd will be excited and we'll be excited to continue our homestand."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has said everyone on his roster should be considered day-to-day for the remainder of the regular season. This is when teams like to ensure that players get some rest wherever they can.
And the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference is already clinched, meaning all that's really left on the Heat to-do list before the opening round of the playoffs is finish atop the NBA's regular-season standings.
"The mindset will be, first and foremost, playing our game and making sure that we establish our identity," Spoelstra said. "That's the whole thing with us. When we do that and play the way we're capable, results take care of themselves.
"We don't want to get caught up in too much of the results. We have a big goal in mind. That's the No. 1 goal and that's the only goal we've talked about."
FireySpurs :banana FireySpurs :banana FireySpurs :banana
Heard the Heat are sitting Wade and James. Time for a Pop countermove.
LOL SO WILL THE HEAT GET FINED??? PROBABLY NOT....
I HOPE POP RUNS UP THE SCORE!!! :evil
Spurs get Pop'd.
Well played sir.:applause
This is funny....glad Spoelstra is doing this, wonder if the Spurs get the 250K back??? Probably not....
If they do sit the stars the Spurs should put them away in the 1st Q and coast to rest their stars for Memphis.
That was painful...
Call on Kuwai was crap, and it wasn't by our favorite ref either
Why in the world Spurs are becoming so WEAK WEAK WEAK WEAK on DEFENSE especially at the last few seconds of recent games.
Not really caring about this game result because LJ and Wade did not play even if we win so why bother, but the way Spurs are playing at the second half at home is a CONCERN!!!
Spurs must go back to what they started this season with SPURS TEAM DEFENSE!
They MUST play better and pay attention more the last few minutes of games!
Albeit maybe Spurs were over occupied by Tomorrows game PLUS LJ and Wade sitting out made Spurs think it would be an easy win so they Under played the Heat.
Still Spurs DEFENSE is soooooo WEAK now they must REBOUND and recover soon!
Go Spurs Go
Down the stretch this team can't make a shot, period. Tim made one the other night and got the and one, other than that down the stretch this team just goes ISO and gets a horrible shot! This seems to happen now routinely.
How do you lose that game? I still do not know how.
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