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 win 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.”
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.
“Even as much as we’re up, he was still on us the entire game,” Duncan said.
Hard to find too much fault with the Spurs’ effort in this one. Marco Belinelli scored 27 points, Duncan had 20 and the Spurs scored a season high in points.
San Antonio also maintained a three-game lead for the top seed in the Western Conference. It’s a quick turnaround for San Antonio, which hosts New Orleans on Saturday.
“This (winning streak) is 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 Denver coach Brian Shaw to absorb, even if he is missing quite a few starters to season-ending injuries.
“That was an embarrassing loss,” Shaw said. “Just from every standpoint of the game — defensively, body language, energy, just embarrassing, and it starts with me. . .”
Heat 110, Pistons 78
In Auburn Hills, Michigan, LeBron James had 17 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds to help Miami build a big lead, and then rested in the fourth quarter.
It was James’ first triple-double of the season and No. 37 for his career. The banged-up Heat had little trouble with the Pistons even though they were without Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen and Greg Oden.
Wizards 91, Pacers 78
In Washington, John Wall scored 20 points as the Wizards avenged two of their biggest losses of the season.
Paul George scored 19 points, and Lance Stephenson had 13 points and matched a career-high with 14 rebounds for Indiana, which has lost a season-high four straight road games.
Raptors 105, Celtics 103
In Toronto, Amir Johnson scored the winning basket with seven seconds remaining as the Raptors clinched their first playoff berth in six seasons.
Suns 112, Knicks 88
In Phoenix, Goran Dragic scored 32 points in 32 minutes as the Suns hammered New York for their season-high sixth victory in a row.
Warriors 100, Grizzlies 93
In Oakland, Stephen Curry scored 33 points, including a tiebreaking 3-pointer, as Golden State used a closing run to beat Memphis.
T-Wolves 143, Lakers 107
In Minneapolis, Kevin Love had 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his second career triple-double, leading the hosts to the easy win.
Thunder 94, Kings 81
In Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant scored 29 points to power the Thunder past Sacramento.
Trail Blazers 91, Bulls 74
In Chicago, Mo Williams scored 18 points to lead five players in double figures as Portland won on the road for a second straight night.
Nets 108, Cavaliers 97
In New York, Paul Pierce scored 17 of his 22 points in a flawless first quarter as Brooklyn quickly pulled away in the second on the way to its 12th straight home victory.
Pelicans 102, Jazz 95
In New Orleans, Tyreke Evans had 22 points and a career-high 15 assists as the short-handed Pelicans overcame the loss of Anthony Davis to extend their winning streak to a season-high five games.
Magic 110, Bobcats 105 (OT)
In Orlando, Nikola Vucevic had 24 points and 23 rebounds for the Magic, and Jameer Nelson scored five points in overtime.