Gregg Popovich has begun taking advantage of any opportunities to rest his veteran stars as the regular season winds down.
The spiraling Philadelphia 76ers might have liked their chances more if the San Antonio Spurs coach hadn’t done that in his previous game.
With Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili likely back on the floor for the league-leading Spurs, the 76ers will try to avoid moving within one of tying the NBA record for consecutive losses Monday night in San Antonio – a city they have rarely left with a victory.
Philadelphia (15-55) continued limping toward history Saturday with its 24th straight loss, 91-81 in Chicago. The 76ers moved ahead of the Vancouver Grizzlies (1995-96), Denver (1997-98) and Charlotte (2011-12) for the league’s second-longest single-season slide.
Thaddeus Young scored 28 points despite missing seven 3-point attempts, contributing to the 76ers going 1 of 20 from beyond the arc. Henry Sims had 18 points and 15 rebounds, but Philadelphia remained winless since Jan. 29.
Two more losses stand between the Sixers and the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers, who dropped 26 in a row to set the NBA mark. With its next two in San Antonio and Houston – a combined 54-15 at home – the odds are not looking good for Philadelphia.
"There’s a win in this group," said coach Brett Brown, who spent the previous seven seasons as a Spurs assistant under Popovich. "We will continue to fight and continue to stay together. I’m just thrilled, I’m proud of their ability, their character, to stay together in what’s clearly difficult times."
The 76ers are facing those two Texas teams in back-to-back games for the second time this season. Six Spurs scored in double figures in a 109-85 rout at Philadelphia on Nov. 11 before the Sixers beat the Rockets 123-117 in overtime two nights later.
If Philadelphia drops both games on its swing through the Lone Star state, it will return home to face Detroit on Saturday with a dubious distinction looming.
"We’re learning to play better with each other," Sims said. "We’re learning to make better decisions down the stretch. We’re growing right now, and that’s the main focus right now. The games we have left, we want to keep growing."
One of the more dispiriting elements of this matchup for the 76ers is their history in San Antonio, where they’ve gone 2-26 since 1984. Philadelphia has dropped nine straight there dating to its last win Jan. 3, 2004. Oddly enough, that loss ended a 13-game win streak for the Spurs, who enter this contest in an identical situation.
San Antonio (53-16), winner of five straight overall against the 76ers, continued its impressive surge with a 99-90 victory at Golden State on Saturday.
With Duncan, who turns 38 in April, and the 36-year-old Ginobili getting some much-needed rest in the second game of a back-to-back, Tony Parker scored 20 points and Danny Green added 18 to help San Antonio extend its longest run of the season.
"Everybody stepped up," Parker said. "When somebody’s not playing, it’s just other guys who will do it. And we trust each other."
Tiago Splitter added 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Spurs, who haven’t won 14 in a row since a franchise-record 17-game run Feb. 29-March 31, 1996. The number seems to be 13 for San Antonio, which has had four win streaks of that many games since.
After closing their 3-0 trip against the Warriors, the Spurs return home trying to extend their winning streak in San Antonio to 10. Their most recent home loss came on the same day the 76ers earned their last victory in late January.