The San Antonio Spurs are the NBA's model of consistency, and that's exactly what the Miami Heat are searching for these days.
Even without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs continue to win, and they seek their fifth straight victory when they open their annual Rodeo Road Trip in Miami on Tuesday night.
San Antonio (43-8) has played without Duncan (sore right knee) the last seven games and Ginobili (testicle injury) the past two, but the Spurs have won four straight while extending their already huge lead in the Southwest Division.
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Duncan will sit again Tuesday – though coach Gregg Popovich says he is close to a return – and Ginobili will be sidelined into March following surgery. But the beat goes on for the Spurs, who pulled out a rare tight home win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, 106-102.
The Spurs, leading the league with what is on pace to be an NBA record point differential of 13.4 per game, trailed through most of the fourth quarter before pulling away to improve to 28-0 at AT&T Center.
“I think for us it was good because we won a lot of games by 15, 20, 30,” Tony Parker said. “Sometimes it's nice to have games like that where we have to execute and make sure in the fourth quarter we make plays.”
A season-high eight-game road trip may serve as another test. The Spurs own an absurd 16.1 points per game differential at home, though it drops to what is still a league-leading mark of 10.1 on the road. They have lost two of three away from home, where they are 15-8 this season.
San Antonio is holding opponents to an NBA-best 91.5 points per game – 4.4 better than Miami and Utah – but Golden State and Cleveland scored 120 and 117, respectively, two weeks ago in consecutive road losses. The Spurs won't return home until they host Detroit on March 2.
LaMarcus Aldridge has filled the gap left by Duncan and Ginobili, averaging 24 points and 6.8 rebounds the last six games. Aldridge, who has averaged 25.8 and 9.4 in his last eight against the Heat, combined with Kawhi Leonard for 46 points against the Lakers.
Dwyane Wade said the deep pool of players the Spurs can turn to is the type of attribute Miami strives for.
“That's what we're trying to build here,” Wade said during Monday's practice. “When you've got young guys coming in, you're trying to get everyone to know their role… When we've done that we've been successful, and when we get outside of that we haven't. (The Spurs) are the consistency of that.”
San Antonio has won five straight in this series, including three in a row to close the 2014 Finals. That span includes three wins in Miami, following a stretch of seven losses in eight games there over the previous three years.
Miami (29-23) recently closed a stretch of 14 of 16 games away from home and will play four of its next five at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat are 16-10 there but have lost three of their last four.
Miami followed a slump of seven losses in eight games by winning six of seven, but Sunday's 100-93 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers snapped a two-game winning streak. Opponents are averaging 91.1 points on 41.6 percent shooting in Heat victories, compared to 102 points on 46.5 percent in losses.
“We have to absolutely commit to our identity, first and foremost,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We can't function well enough or consistent enough if we're playing against half-court defenses too much.”