The San Antonio Spurs consider 32 wins in 41 games a good start to a season they hope will be memorable, in essence putting the rest of the NBA on alert to just how good they can be if they can put all their considerably talented pieces together at the same time.
The next team to try to derail the Spurs will be the Denver Nuggets, who head to the Alamo City on Thursday for a matchup at the AT&T Center.
At the halfway mark of its season, the Spurs (32-9) own the second-best record in the league and the Western Conference but say they have room for improvement.
Article continues below ...
“No team is where they want to be,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after a 122-114 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday. “Maybe Golden State is, but the rest of us are trying to get there.”
Despite their success, the Spurs are struggling to play complete games, the most recent exhibit coming against Minnesota, when they didn’t dominate until the end of the third quarter. Just don’t call San Antonio’s efforts sluggish, as one reporter did Tuesday night.
“I don’t think we were sluggish — that’s not the right word,” Popovich said. “Nobody is sluggish — it’s an NBA game, and everybody is playing for their life. There might be mental mistakes and there might be lack of physicality or missed shots and turnovers, but sluggish doesn’t fit.”
Kawhi Leonard, who had 34 points in the win Tuesday, leads the Spurs in scoring at 24.8 per contest. He produced 30-plus points in each of the past four games, equaling the longest streak by any San Antonio player since Mike Mitchell had six straight in 1986.
San Antonio scored 100-plus points in each of its past 18 games, the longest streak by a Spurs team since going 22 straight in 1995.
That is what awaits Denver as it travels to San Antonio with a three-game win streak in its pocket, with the latest victory a 127-121 triumph against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday at Staples Center.
Nikola Jokic scored 29 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the win. Will Barton added 26 points and eight assists, Kenneth Faried contributed 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Emmanuel Mudiay each hit for 14 points for the Nuggets, who beat the Lakers in Los Angeles for the seventh consecutive time.
Denver (17-23) nearly blew a huge third-quarter lead by getting outscored 37-26 in the final period.
“We blew the lead, but we stayed together,” Jokic said. “We had really good defensive stops in the last minute. The offense was really good for us. We have (plenty of) people playing well for us.”
The Nuggets are averaging 130.7 points and 33 assists per game during their winning streak. Denver’s starters accounted for all but 24 of the team’s points in the victory Tuesday.
“Early in the season, we probably lose this game, to be honest,” Chandler said. “Everybody held their composure; everybody made big plays.”
The Nuggets and Spurs played on Jan. 5 in Denver, with San Antonio rolling to a 127-99 win in which LaMarcus Aldridge led the Spurs with 28 points while the Nuggets got 19 points and 11 rebounds from Jokic. San Antonio had a season-low seven turnovers in the win and shot a season-best 56.7 percent (51 of 90) from the floor and 50 percent (12 of 24) from 3-point range. Denver shot just 28 percent (7 of 25) from beyond the arc.
The Spurs won the past seven games played between the teams in San Antonio.