Heat-Spurs Preview

The San Antonio Spurs will conclude this decade with the

league’s most regular-season wins. They’ve done a good job of

adding to that total over the past three weeks.

The Spurs look to win for the 10th time in 12 games and continue

their dominance of the Miami Heat on Thursday at the AT&T

Center.

For the past 10 years, San Antonio (18-11) has been a model of

excellence in the NBA. The Spurs have amassed an league-best 573

regular-season victories since Jan. 1, 2000, while also winning

three championships.

San Antonio, which hasn’t missed the playoffs since 1997, got

off to a bit of a slow start to this season, but has recently been

one of the league’s hottest teams. After losing three straight Dec.

3-7 to drop to 9-9, the Spurs have gone 9-2 to charge into the

thick of the Southwest Division race.

San Antonio’s recent run of success means little to its

hard-to-please coach.

“All I care about is how we’re playing and if we’re improving,”

Gregg Popovich said Tuesday after an easy 117-99 win over

Minnesota. “We have a long way to go.”

Although Popovich feels San Antonio has room for improvement,

the team is undoubtedly playing excellent ball right now.

The Spurs are averaging 105.9 points on 51.4 percent shooting in

their last 11 games, while outrebounding opponents by an average of

5.7 in that span.

“We got 50 games to go,” Richard Jefferson said. “Our final

product is going to be determined by the end of the year, not our

win-loss record in January or December.”

Jefferson led six San Antonio players in double figures Tuesday

with 24 points, while Manu Ginobili added 14 points with 10 assists

and nine rebounds.

Jefferson’s improved play over the past few weeks has helped key

the Spurs’ surge. The 6-foot-7 forward is averaging 14.5 points and

shooting 52.5 percent shooting in the last 11 games after averaging

8.9 points on 33.3 percent in his previous seven. He scored 32

points in his last game against Miami, a 102-85 loss for Milwaukee

on March 28.

The Heat (16-13) arrive in San Antonio following Wednesday’s

95-91 loss at New Orleans, snapping a three-game winning

streak.

Miami trailed by 15 points early in the fourth quarter but

stormed back to take an 88-87 lead when Quentin Richardson tipped

in Dwayne Wade’s missed jumper with 59 seconds to go. The Hornets

then scored the next six points to put the game away and hand the

Heat their second loss in seven games.

“On the road, you’ve got to give yourself a chance to win and we

did that,” said Wade, who finished with 22 points.

Miami hasn’t been in position to win often in San Antonio.

The Spurs have won 12 of 15 over the Heat overall, and 20 of 22

all-time meetings in San Antonio. Miami’s 99-83 win over the Spurs

on Nov. 7, 2008, snapped a 10-game road losing streak in the

series.

Wade has played well despite his team’s struggles with the

Spurs, averaging 28.0 points and 10.0 assists in his last three

games against them.