San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was so unhappy with his team’s lackluster performance in Tuesday night’s loss at Memphis, his postgame press conference lasted a mere 38 seconds.
After the Spurs became the first NBA team to reach 50 wins with a 109-99 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night, Popovich was in a much better frame of mind.
”I think in general the whole group played to win the game as opposed to last night where they played just expecting something to happen without a focus,” he said.
The victory gave the Spurs (50-11) their 12th consecutive 50-win season. It also equaled their victory total from last season.
George Hill tied a season high with 22 points to lead the Spurs, who bounced back from a 109-93 defeat against the Grizzlies and were playing their second game since point guard Tony Parker went out with a calf injury.
”I just wanted to come out tonight and not really focus on anything, and just play basketball,” Hill said. ”I felt like I let my team and my fans down (in Memphis).”
Parker is out for two to four weeks and Hill will see the majority of minutes at point guard.
”As long as TP is out, that is what he is going to have to do,” said forward Tim Duncan, who had 16 points. ”He will have to accept that role and give us some fire from that position.”
San Antonio had four other players in double figures. DeJuan Blair had 14 points and 10 rebounds. The Spurs also got 14 points from Gary Neal and 13 each from All-Star Manu Ginobili and Matt Bonner.
Rookie forward Samardo Samuels, making his first NBA start, had a career-high 23 points and 10 rebounds for Cleveland, which was playing without forward Antawn Jamison and guards Baron Davis and Daniel Gibson.
”Our guys fought and played hard, but that team is just way too good,” Cleveland coach Byron Scott said. ”They do not make a lot of mistakes. That’s why they’ve won championships.”
Even Cleveland’s newest players can’t escape the injury bug. Forward Luke Harangody, acquired from Boston before the trade deadline, scored two points in his debut, but didn’t play in the second half because of a right hip pointer. He’s listed as day-to-day.
When informed of Harangody’s injury, Scott admitted he couldn’t help but laugh.
”You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said.
Davis, acquired Feb. 24 from the Los Angeles Clippers, didn’t play because Scott wants him to get at least one more practice with the team. Gibson was a late scratch because he aggravated a quadriceps injury. Jamison, Cleveland’s leading scorer, likely will miss the rest of the season after having surgery on a broken little finger on his left hand.
San Antonio started slowly in the matchup of the league’s best and worst teams, but took control midway through the second quarter. The Cavaliers (11-49) built an eight-point lead, but San Antonio closed the first half with a 25-16 surge to lead 57-52 at halftime.
The Spurs increased the lead to 77-61 with 5:49 remaining in the third quarter, and their largest advantage was 25 early in the fourth. Cleveland cut the final margin to 10 with reserves from both teams on the floor.
The Cavaliers had five players in double figures. Alonzo Gee scored 18 points, and Ramon Sessions added 14. J.J. Hickson scored 12 points and Christian Eyenga had 11.
Notes: Neal was the only Spurs player to finish in double figures Tuesday with 14 points. … San Antonio committed 22 turnovers against Memphis, one short of a season high. The Spurs had 15 turnovers Wednesday. … Davis is expected to play Friday against New York or Sunday against New Orleans. … Samuels started in place of Jamison. … C Semih Erden, also acquired from Boston before the trade deadline, was inactive because of a shoulder injury.