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Cavaliers, Spurs: Important for what they've done, what they might do

The Cavaliers are 9-1 with Kyrie Irving this season. David Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers will play the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night (8 ET) in a game that has significance for what the teams have done this season and what they might do in the months to come.

The Cavaliers have won eight games in a row, and the Spurs are on a nine-game winning streak. Elias Sports Bureau research shows that this will be the ninth game in NBA history involving teams that both are on in-season winning streaks of at least eight games.

The most recent such game, Elias noted, also involved LeBron James. On March 1, 2013, the Miami Heat, winners of 12 in a row at the time, beat the Memphis Grizzlies (on an eight-game win streak). The Heat beat the Grizzlies and extended their streak to 27 wins, the second-longest one-season winning streak in NBA history.

James’ teams have lost six of their last eight games against the Spurs. That includes the 2014 Finals, when James was still with the Heat.

The Spurs are No. 1 in ESPN’s NBA Basketball Power Index, and the Cavaliers rank fourth. Both are the BPI favorites to represent their respective conference: a 53 percent chance for the Spurs to win the Western Conference and a 44 percent chance the Cavaliers will come out of the East.

BPI projects a Spurs-Cavaliers matchup in the Finals as 24.1 percent likely. The next-most likely matchup is Warriors-Cavaliers at 18.5 percent.

Irving’s return welcome

James has scored 27.7 points on 57.1 percent shooting from the field in his last seven games. Before that stretch, he was shooting 48.6 percent.

The Cavaliers are 9-1 this season with Kyrie Irving, who made his season debut Dec. 20.

Since the beginning of last January, the Cavaliers are 42-5 (regular season and playoffs) when James, Irving and Kevin Love all play.

James, Irving and Love have been on the court together for 174 minutes this season, but it has been a highly effective 174 minutes. The Cavaliers are averaging 121.1 points per 100 possessions and posting a net efficiency of plus-14.5 in that time. The 121.1 points per 100 possessions would lead the NBA if it were the Cavaliers’ season-long mark.

Spurs notes

The Spurs have outscored opponents by 17.8 points per game during their season-high nine-game win streak.

If they can win tonight, the Spurs would establish a first in the NBA: The Elias Sports Bureau says they would become the first team in NBA history with a 10-game win streak in six consecutive seasons.

Monday’s 106-79 win over the Nets was the Spurs' 10th of the season by a margin of at least 25 points. Elias notes that -- less than halfway into the season -- that tied the team record for such wins, set in the 1978-79 season and matched in 2012-13. The Spurs lost in the conference finals in 1979 and lost the NBA Finals in 2013.