DENVER – As the winning streak climbs, so does the stress level for San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich.
At least, that was Tim Duncan’s assessment after the Spurs ran their streak to 16 straight by beating the Denver Nuggets 133-102 on Friday night.
This is their longest regular-season winning streak since reeling off 17 in a row from Feb. 29 to March 31, 1996. And Popovich seems to be growing more antsy with every victory.
“Oh, very. Very, very, very. Very much,” Duncan said. “He’s a teacher and wants to teach. He wants the good and the bad. Even through this streak, he’s been on us a tremendous amount, making sure we don’t rest on just the wins, but we’re learning from game to game.”
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Popovich found a teaching moment in the third quarter with the game well in hand. His team relaxed on one possession and allowed an easy transition basket by Randy Foye. Popovich quickly called timeout and voiced his displeasure to his team.
Hard to find too much fault with the Spurs’ effort in this one. Marco Belinelli scored 27 points, Duncan had 20 and the Spurs reached a season high in points.
San Antonio also maintained a three-game lead for the top seed in the Western Conference.
“This (winning streak) is a great challenge,” Duncan said. “It’s a big challenge. People can get lackadaisical and look past certain games. We’ve done a good job of not doing that.”
Foye scored 20 for a banged-up Nuggets squad that lost for the fourth time in five games. Wilson Chandler was out with a strained groin, while Timofey Mozgov and Kenneth Faried were hampered by an illness. Faried still finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
“They’re devastated, injury-wise,” Popovich said. “It’s not a fair deal.”
Still, a 31-point loss was hard for Nuggets coach Brian Shaw to absorb.
“That was an embarrassing loss,” he said. “Just from every standpoint of the game — defensively, body language, energy, just embarrassing, and it starts with me … “
• LeBron James had 17 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds to help Miami rout host Detroit 110-78. It was James’ first triple-double of the season and the 37th of his career.
• John Wall scored 20 points, and host Washington beat Eastern Conference-leading Indiana 91-78.
• Amir Johnson scored the winning basket with seven seconds remaining, and Toronto beat visiting Boston 105-103 to clinch its first playoff berth in six seasons.
• Kevin Love had 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his second career triple-double, leading host Minnesota to a 143-107 rout of the Los Angeles Lakers.
• Goran Dragic scored 32 points in 32 minutes and the host Phoenix Suns beat the New York Knicks 112-88 for their season-high sixth victory in a row.
• Mo Williams scored 18 points as visiting Portland beat Chicago 91-74. The Trail Blazers posted decisive road victories on consecutive nights, as they won 100-85 in Atlanta on Thursday.