Minnesota Vikings Hall of Fame defensive tackle John Randle said it felt like the team hit every green light during the 1998 season until getting sideswiped in the NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons.
The San Antonio Spurs can relate to that somewhat after they absorbed their first loss on an annual Rodeo Road Trip the last time out. An 11-game winning streak and an unblemished mark on the trek went down the tubes in Portland, but the Spurs have a chance to redeem themselves tonight against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.
San Antonio is 7-1 on the nine-game road swing and had an eight-game winning streak on the road cut short with Tuesday's embarrassing 137-97 setback to the Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden, where the Spurs shot a dismal 38.1 percent and trailed 66-43 at halftime. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan did not play due to a coach's decision and rookie Kawhi Leonard led the way with 24 points, 10 rebounds and five steals in San Antonio's seventh straight loss in Rip City.
"They've been going and going and going and if you don't do it now I think you're asking for trouble," Popovich said about resting Duncan and Parker.
Danny Green and Cory Joseph scored 16 and 13 points, respectively, and both Dejuan Blair and Gary Neal ended with 10 points. The Spurs still lead the Southwest Division by 2 1/2 games ahead of Dallas and fell to 10-9 away from the Alamo City this season.
After their stint in the Rocky Mountains, the Spurs will rest during the break before opening a seven-game homestand versus Chicago, Charlotte, Denver, New York, the LA Clippers, Washington and Orlando. San Antonio will be without Manu Ginobili (oblique) and Tiago Splitter (calf), who are both expected to be sidelined for a couple of weeks.
Parker and Duncan are expected to play tonight. Parker is posting 19.5 points per game, while Duncan owns averages of 19.9 points and 8.6 boards.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets hope to head into the All-Star break on a positive note and have lost four of five and nine of the last 12 games.
In Wednesday's 103-95 loss at the Clippers, Chris Paul had a season-high 36 points to go along with nine assists to lead the hosts and dunk master Blake Griffin added 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Arron Afflalo paced the Nuggets with 20 points, while Jordan Hamilton added a career-high 18 points for Denver, which suffered its fourth straight loss on the road.
"They made shots at the right time and we missed shots. They rebounded and we just couldn't put the ball in the basket," said Nuggets guard Andre Miller, who had eight points and eight assists.
Denver is back at home and sports a 9-7 record at the Pepsi Center. It has won two in a row in the Rockies and lost the first meeting of the season with San Antonio, 121-117, in the Alamo City. The Nuggets have lost six of seven matchups with the Spurs.
The Nuggets and Spurs have split the past eight encounters in Colorado.