The San Antonio Spurs’ first losing month in nearly 16 years is behind them, and in front of the defending champions is a far more manageable January that includes plenty of time at the AT&T Center.
To the Washington Wizards, it must only seem like that long since they beat the Spurs.
San Antonio looks for its first consecutive victories in nearly a month Saturday night as it tries to push its winning streak over the visiting Wizards to 17.
Not since February 1999 had the Spurs (20-14) finished a full month of the NBA calendar with a losing record, but a 95-87 loss at Memphis on Tuesday guaranteed a sub-.500 December for San Antonio.
The Spurs bounced back with a 95-93 overtime win over New Orleans the next night to finish it at 8-10, and now they’ll turn the page on a month that saw Tony Parker miss 13 games, Kawhi Leonard 11, Manu Ginobili four and Tim Duncan three.
"I think I’ll remember it. … Some things are just indelible, you never forget them," coach Gregg Popovich said after his team played its franchise-record 18th game in a month. "Some good ones, some bad ones, but that’s part of the deal. I’m just really proud of the guys."
Leonard (bruised hand) and Parker (strained hamstring) remain out against the Wizards (22-10), whom the Spurs will see twice in 11 days. After concluding December with 10 straight games against Western Conference clubs that are currently .500 or better, San Antonio only gets three games against West contenders – and plays nine of 14 at home – in January.
Washington hasn’t been able to figure out the Spurs regardless of where they’ve played. San Antonio hasn’t lost in this series since November 2005 – an in-his-prime Gilbert Arenas scored 43 – and hasn’t fallen to the Wizards at home since December 1999.
"They weren’t as good in the past," Spurs forward Boris Diaw said. "It was a young team, building. Now they’re better. You can think about the streak or how we beat them five years ago, but it’s a totally different team now. They’re good now."
Twelve of the Spurs’ next 19 games are against Eastern opponents, and Popovich’s club is 17-1 in its last 18 regular-season interconference contests.
The Wizards are a solid 7-4 against the West, but half of those losses have come over the past four days during a five-game trip. Washington had 22 turnovers in a 114-87 loss to Dallas on Tuesday, then allowed Oklahoma City to shoot 53.0 percent Friday in a 109-102 defeat.
Tied heading into the fourth, the Wizards were outscored in the final period for a seventh straight game.
"We did a nice job fighting tooth-and-nail with them," coach Randy Wittman said, "but they made more plays than we did coming down the stretch, and that was the difference."
While the Spurs look to win two straight for the first time since Dec. 5-6, the Wizards are trying to avoid their first three-game slide since mid-February.
On this trip against Western clubs, and dating to a visit from Phoenix on Dec. 21, Washington’s defense has been a problem. The Wizards have given up an average of 107.5 points in the past four versus the West, getting outscored 46.0-35.5 per game in the paint while being doubled up in points off turnovers (92-46).
The Spurs outscored Washington 108-76 on the interior in last season’s meetings, with Wizards big men Nene and Marcin Gortat combining for just 36 points on 13-of-38 shooting.
Even if Nene and Gortat fare better Saturday, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see John Wall carry the load offensively. He’s averaged 20.4 points and shot 50.0 percent on the second night of back-to-backs, helping the Wizards go 5-2 in those situations.