Though the banged-up San Antonio Spurs have dominated the Charlotte Bobcats in their all-time series, things may not be as one-sided Saturday night.
With Tony Parker uncertain to play but Tim Duncan expected to return after both missed the last game, the visiting Spurs go for a sixth consecutive win over the Bobcats.
With Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard still sidelined, San Antonio (36-14) was without its top four scorers in Thursday’s 103-89 loss at Brooklyn. Cory Joseph had a career-high 18 points and Danny Green finished with 17 for the Spurs, who were within five early in the fourth quarter before the Nets pulled away.
Parker was held out after leaving Wednesday’s 125-118 double-overtime loss at Washington due to back spasms. The 37-year-old Duncan scored a season-best 31 in a season-high 40 minutes that night and was given Thursday off to recuperate.
Also without Boris Diaw due to food poisoning, the Spurs were held to 39.7 percent shooting, outrebounded 53-38 and outscored 56-32 in the paint.
"I know we didn’t look pretty. I’m more interested in results than how we look. So I thought they performed well," coach Gregg Popovich said. "I’m disappointed we didn’t win. I’m thinking we make a couple of 3s in the second half and we hang right in there, and that’s the way you’ve got to look at it."
While it seems Duncan should be back in action Saturday, Parker may need more time.
"Really wishing that some of those guys were healthy right now," said Green, who has played a combined 81 minutes the last two games. "It’s always good to play a lot of minutes, but at the same time it would have been nice to have some of those guys healthy."
The Spurs have allowed 84.3 points per game in compiling a 15-2 record against the Bobcats, taking the last three by an average of 28.0 points. Parker scored 22 in both of last season’s meetings while going a combined 19 of 22 from the floor.
Charlotte (22-28) doesn’t figure to go down so easy this time around. Sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, the Bobcats just concluded a 3-1 road trip to surpass their win total from all of 2012-13.
"We believed before we left Charlotte that this West Coast trip would either break us or help us," a red-hot Al Jefferson said. "We felt like this could’ve been the turning point of our season, and I felt like guys came focused."
Jefferson had 30 points and 13 rebounds in Tuesday’s 91-75 rout at Golden State. Charlotte limited the Warriors to 31.2 percent from the floor, fourth-best in team history.
The Bobcats are 3-2 at home in the past four weeks, with the losses coming by two to Chicago and in overtime to Miami. They host San Antonio and Dallas in the next two games.
"We have a tough stretch coming up," coach Steve Clifford said. "But we have proven on any given night we can play with anybody. So we’ll see what happens in the next 32 games."
Jefferson, who has scored at least 30 in four of five games, is averaging 27.4 over the last 12 to rank among the NBA leaders since Jan. 13.
"He’s been unstoppable," point guard Kemba Walker said.
Charlotte is 13-5 when Jefferson scores at least 22 points compared to 4-19 when he doesn’t. He only had one 20-point effort in his last five games against the Spurs while with Utah.
The Bobcats have won five of seven against the West after opening 2-10. San Antonio won 13 of its first 15 versus the East but has since dropped three of four.