Tim Duncan has accomplished quite a bit with the San Antonio Spurs since he was drafted first overall in 1997. The 37-year-old is the franchise’s all-time leader in minutes, points and rebounds, and has been the centerpiece of four NBA championships.
What he’d never enjoyed until now is an unbeaten stretch as lengthy as this one.
The Spurs will try to extend their longest regular-season win streak of the Duncan era to 15 when they host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.
San Antonio (54-16) had won 13 straight games three previous times since Duncan entered the league before the Spurs finally got over that hump Monday with their 14th straight victory, 113-91 over Philadelphia.
Duncan was well-rested after sitting out the previous game and had 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting in just over 23 minutes, helping the Spurs send the 76ers to their 25th loss in a row – one shy of tying the NBA record.
A victory over the Nuggets will tie for the second-longest streak in team history. San Antonio set a franchise record with a 17-game run from Feb. 29-March 31, 1996.
"It is what it is," Duncan said. "We are playing well through this stretch and winning some games. Pop (Coach Gregg Popovich) is still not satisfied with what we are doing. We want to stay healthy, we want to stay moving in the right direction and hopefully we can ride this into the playoffs and feel good going into the playoffs."
With Tony Parker and Danny Green getting the night off, the Spurs got an unexpected boost against the Sixers from reserve forward Austin Daye, who had 22 points. Daye had been averaging 2.3 minutes while playing in only four games since being acquired Feb. 20 from Toronto, but he was 6 for 10 from 3-point range and had six rebounds in 29 minutes.
"He’s a skilled guy," Popovich said of Daye, who came in having scored 14 combined points this season. "Obviously he can shoot it. But he’s also a good passer. He knows how to play the game. It was good to be able to get him some time tonight."
This upcoming contest will open a home-and-home set between the Spurs and Nuggets, who have won five of their last eight. The series concludes Friday in Denver.
"(We expect) high energy, real high energy. We know the play hard and they play quick," Duncan said of the Nuggets. "They get the ball up the floor, they run, they crash, so we are going to have to bring a lot of our focus and a lot of energy. We need to get back in transition on them."
Denver (32-39) has dropped its last three road games after a 117-96 loss at Oklahoma City on Monday. The Nuggets struggled on the defensive end against the Thunder, who shot 50.0 percent from 3-point range – among the highest for a Denver opponent this season.
"We didn’t get into the ball defensively," Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur said. "Our communication was off."
Ty Lawson had 25 points for Denver, which failed to get out on the break. In their six games prior to the loss, the Nuggets averaged 18.2 fast-break points, which ranked in the NBA’s top five from March 14-23. They scored only 10 on the break against the Thunder.
The Spurs have recently dominated the series with the Nuggets, who have lost 10 of the last 14 meetings overall and five of their last six in San Antonio.