The San Antonio Spurs are closing in on home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, but Tony Parker may not be available to help them secure it.
The Spurs’ leading scorer is dealing with back spasms and will not travel on a two-game trip that begins with Tuesday night’s rescheduled game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
San Antonio (60-17) is 4 1/2 games ahead of Oklahoma City in the Western Conference with six games left for the Thunder, who play in Sacramento on Tuesday night. A win and an OKC loss would clinch the NBA’s best record for the Spurs.
San Antonio, however, will play without Parker after he was forced to leave in the first quarter of Sunday’s 112-92 win over Memphis, the team’s first after a franchise-best 19-game win streak was snapped Thursday. According to the team’s website, he had an MRI on Monday that showed a sprained facet joint on his left side and will be considered day-to-day when the Spurs return from their trip.
Kawhi Leonard matched a career high with 26 points, and Manu Ginobili also contributed 26 to help the Spurs make up for the loss of their point guard, who is averaging 16.8 points and 5.8 assists.
"We just have to hope it’s a couple-of-days thing," Ginobili said. "Of course, we’re a different team without him. We need him healthy and strong for the playoffs."
The Spurs weren’t originally slated to visit Minnesota this season. That "home" game for the Timberwolves was scheduled to take place in Mexico City on Dec. 4, but was postponed because of smoke in the arena, caused by a fire in the generator room.
San Antonio has won both matchups this season, and Parker’s 29 points helped it earn a 117-110 victory Dec. 13. The Spurs got a little more balanced scoring in a 104-86 victory Jan. 12 with Leonard providing a team-leading 17 points and Parker among six players in double figures with 14.
They played without Ginobili and Tiago Splitter in that game then lost Danny Green to a sprained finger early in the second quarter.
The Spurs will seek to overcome another potentially short-handed rotation by earning just their second win in the last five visits to Minnesota. The Timberwolves (38-38) won both home matchups last season despite Kevin Love sitting out both due to hand surgery.
Tim Duncan also missed both of those meetings, and Ginobili has sat out two of the last three games in Minnesota.
Love is expected to play Tuesday after sitting out Minnesota’s failed attempt at a third straight win, a 100-92 defeat in Orlando on Saturday, with back spasms. The Timberwolves announced Monday that forwards Chase Budinger (ankle) and Shabazz Muhammad (knee) are out for the rest of the season.
Kevin Martin (heel) and Nikola Pekovic (ankle) are expected to sit out Tuesday.
Reserve forward Dante Cunningham was arrested for a second time in three days Monday after sending threatening "terroristic" messages to a woman he was living with, according to police in Medina, Minn.
"We only have eight or nine guys, which is tough," Love said. "We’re fighting that battle of attrition. We’ve just got to make it fun in these last six."
Love had a then-season high 42 points and 14 rebounds against San Antonio in December. He was held to 14 points on 3-of-14 shooting and seven rebounds in the January matchup.