The longest winning streak in franchise history is over, but the San Antonio Spurs still have a couple of runs they’d like to keep alive Sunday.
Two months have passed since they last lost at home and nearly three years since the Memphis Grizzlies last won in San Antonio. The Spurs dealt them a sweep in the Western Conference finals last May and now could do the same in the regular season, further damaging the Grizzlies’ confidence should the teams meet in the playoffs again.
That’s a very possible scenario – in the first round this time – considering Memphis currently owns the West’s No. 8 seed while San Antonio remains at the top despite falling to Oklahoma City 106-94 on Thursday.
"They are healthy, they’ve been better and the most important thing, they are really fighting for a spot in the playoffs," Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili said of the Grizzlies. "When you’re in that situation, you really give everything you have and more. So it’s a great test."
The team-record win streak ended at 19 games Thursday as the Spurs (59-17) saw their lead over the second-place Thunder cut to 3 1/2 games, but they mostly shrugged it off.
"We never thought about the streak in the first place," Popovich said. "To us, it is just another game."
It was their first defeat since Feb. 21 at Phoenix and gave the Thunder a season sweep.
"If there’s something I didn’t care at all (about), it was about the streak," Ginobili said. "In my mind, it doesn’t make sense at all talking so much about it."
Ginobili’s team still has a 13-game win streak at the AT&T Center, where the Grizzlies have lost 21 of 23 and nine straight since a 2011 playoff victory. Memphis won that first-round series but has since dropped 13 of 15 to the Spurs, including a four-game sweep in the 2013 West finals and three meetings this season as San Antonio shot a combined 52.5 percent.
The Spurs scored more than 100 points in each of those games against a Memphis team which allows a conference-low 94.2 per game. However, the last meeting was back on Jan. 7 and went to overtime after the Grizzlies – without injured center Marc Gasol – rallied from 16 down in the final five minutes of regulation only to lose 110-108.
Following that defeat, Memphis won 11 of 12 as part of its 30-12 record since that day – third-best in the league. The Grizzlies (45-31) are within a half-game of seventh-place Dallas and share the same record with Phoenix for eighth but have won that tiebreaker.
"I really dislike the word pressure. I think it’s more a sense of urgency playing good basketball, and playing to our level, playing the way we need to play," Gasol told the NBA’s official website. "That’s what we need to do. Pressure is something that nobody can really put on you. It’s all mental."
Gasol had 24 points in a 100-92 victory over Denver on Friday. That was Memphis’ 11th straight home win, and the last three visitors were all held under 38.0 percent from the field.
However, the Grizzlies have let opponents shoot a combined 51.0 percent in their past four road games, losing three.
Now they must deal with a San Antonio club which should have all of its top players available after Ginobili was rested Friday. The Spurs are 24-4 when he surpasses his season average of 12.3 points.
"I anticipate the Spurs will come fully loaded and ready to go on Sunday," Memphis coach Dave Joerger said. "We gotta have some freshness to us."