Even with two stalwarts out, the San Antonio Spurs had little difficulty matching a franchise-best start while extending their season-high win streak.
With a highly anticipated game looming, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich could choose to rest some of his players again – or at least go light on the minutes – Friday night against the lowly Los Angeles Lakers.
Tony Parker sat out with a sore right hip and Popovich rested Tim Duncan for Thursday's opener to a three-game trip, which will end with a matchup against league-best Golden State on Monday.
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The Spurs easily romped to a 12th consecutive victory, 117-89 over Phoenix, while getting a chance to take it easy on the rest of their roster.
Parker's replacement in the starting lineup, Ray McCallum, was the only player to log more than 25 minutes at 28:42. Kawhi Leonard scored a team-best 21 points in a season-low 22:12 on the same day he earned his first start in an All-Star Game.
“It was just a time for us to really execute our plays and make sure we were in our defensive rotation,'” Leonard said.
The Spurs got 66 points from their bench while matching their 37-6 start in 2010-11. That team lost its 44th game, but this squad has a prime chance to win its 44th when it faces the Western Conference's worst team.
The Spurs are also 7-0 in the second of back-to-back games, the league's only team with a perfect mark.
The Lakers (9-35) endured their eighth loss in nine games Wednesday with a 112-93 defeat to visiting Sacramento. They've been outscored by an average of 20.3 points and outshot 49.0 to 39.8 percent in a string of four consecutive defeats.
“I swear if this was a couple years ago I would say something extremely inappropriate,” said Kobe Bryant, who was the leading vote-getter for his final NBA All-Star Game. “You can't be chumps, and nobody in this locker room is a chump to capitulate to that and accept that fact. It's not going to happen, so you just come out and try to improve and work every single game and get better.”
The Spurs routed the Lakers 109-87 in the first meeting this season Dec. 11 with LaMarcus Aldridge providing 24 points and 11 rebounds. Patty Mills had a season-high 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting.
San Antonio has won 14 of 17 over the Lakers, including a opening-round sweep in the 2013 playoffs. The Spurs have also claimed the past five road matchups including the postseason.
The Lakers have lost five of six at home and Bryant hasn't helped too much lately, averaging 8.0 points on 30.0 percent shooting in the past five overall contests. This matchup with the Spurs falls on the 10th anniversary of his 81-point performance against Toronto.
“It's amazing how time flies,'' Bryant said. ''It's absolutely crazy it was 10 years.”
Bryant had 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting against the Spurs in December. Rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell scored what was a career-high 24, later topped by his 27 in a loss in Sacramento on Jan. 7.