Spurs-Nuggets Preview

The San Antonio Spurs’ lengthy winning streak came to an abrupt

end as coach Gregg Popovich gave two of his best players the night

off.

Denver Nuggets coach George Karl can’t wait to get some of his

top players back in the lineup.

With Tim Duncan and Tony Parker expected to return to the

starting five on Thursday night, San Antonio will cap off its

annual rodeo trip trying to head into the All-Star break on a

positive note as it faces the banged-up Nuggets.

Winners of an NBA season-high 11 consecutive games, the

Southwest Division-leading Spurs (23-10) were routed 137-97 by

Portland on Tuesday. Duncan and Parker watched from the bench

because Popovich wanted his two veterans to get some rest during a

stretch of three games in four nights.

The result was the Spurs’ most lopsided defeat since a 111-69

loss at Chicago on March 5, 1997. San Antonio is still second in

the Western Conference, three games behind Oklahoma City.

“One loss isn’t going to do anything to us so we’re just going

to keep moving on,” rookie swingman Kawhi Leonard said Tuesday

after posting team highs with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

The Spurs conclude their nine-game trip with their lone visit to

Denver. San Antonio will be without Manu Ginobili (oblique) and

Tiago Splitter (calf), who are both expected to be sidelined for a

couple of weeks.

The Nuggets (18-16) have their own injury concerns.

With leading scorer Danilo Gallinari out the last nine games

with a sprained left ankle and not expected back until after the

break, Denver could also be without point guard Ty Lawson (sprained

left ankle), forward Nene (strained calf) and backup swingman Rudy

Fernandez (strained lower back) on Thursday.

The trio did not play Wednesday when Denver lost for the 11th

time in 15 games, 103-95 to the Los Angeles Clippers.

“We had a lot of young guys out there, and (Clippers guard Chris

Paul) found a lot of easy shots and made them,” Karl said of the

All-Star scoring 36 points against his team.

Trying to win their third straight at home before the All-Star

break, the injury-riddled Nuggets could use continued production

from rookie forwards Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton. Faried is

scoring 10.8 points per game with 7.8 rebounds over the last six

contests, while Hamilton posted season highs with 18 points and

seven boards at Los Angeles.

Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo is averaging 22.3 points over the

last three games. He finished with 12 in a 121-117 loss at San

Antonio on Jan. 7.

Spurs swingman Danny Green scored a career-best 24 in that

contest, while Parker and Richard Jefferson added 19 apiece in the

Spurs’ best offensive performance of the season.

The Nuggets shot 56.8 percent as Gallinari had 31 points and

Lawson added 20 and 10 assists.

It was the highest-scoring regular-season contest between the

former ABA teams since a 131-111 Spurs home win on April 22,

1993.

San Antonio has surrendered 100 or more points in a season-high

four consecutive games, but the Nuggets have hit 40.2 percent of

their shots in each of the last two games after failing to convert

a field goal in the final 7:26 on Wednesday.

Denver won 115-112 in the Spurs’ last visit to the Mile High

City on March 23, snapping a three-game home losing streak and

five-game overall skid to San Antonio.