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 will face a Cleveland Cavaliers team that could be without rookie point guard Kyrie Irving.
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 is likely out for the season with a torn tendon in his left foot and center Anderson Varejao has been gone since Feb. 10 with a broken right wrist, and now Irving could miss a second straight game with a sprained right shoulder suffered in Friday’s 121-84 loss to Milwaukee.
Irving, who leads all rookies with 18.9 points per game, did not participate in any contact drills during Monday’s practice after missing Saturday’s 91-75 road loss against the New York Knicks. It will be coach Byron Scott’s decision if Irving plays Tuesday.
“I don’t think there’s any need to put him in harm’s way,” Scott said. “If there still is an issue with it as far as pain or soreness, it doesn’t benefit him to get out there and get that thing reinjured and miss the rest of the season or anything like that.”
If Irving can’t go, undrafted rookie Donald Sloan will likely join Anthony Parker in the starting backcourt. In his first career start, Sloan scored 10 points with seven rebounds and four assists versus New York.
“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.
San Antonio has averaged 8.9 steals during its winning streak.
The Spurs’ 109-99 win on 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.