The San Antonio Spurs won a critical Western Conference showdown on Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder and hope to keep the momentum going Tuesday when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Spurs bested the Thunder, 105-93, in San Antonio on Monday night. The victory extended the Spurs lead over OKC in the Western Conference to two games as the teams jockey for the top seed in the playoffs.
With leading scorer Tony Parker sidelined a few more weeks with a sprained ankle. the Spurs used balance to beat the Thunder. Center Tiago Splitter led six Spurs in double figures with 21.
Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw all cracked the 10-point mark for San Antonio.
The win was the fourth in the last five games for the Spurs. The lone setback was an ugly, 136-106 loss, at home, to the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
Defense was the key in that setback and it looked like the Spurs were headed in the same direction on Monday. They surrendered 32 first-quarter points, but only 18 in the second quarter and 19 in the decisive final frame.
"It's always about defense. If you don't play good defense, you're nothing in this league," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
The Spurs went 4-2 in this recent six-game homestand, which followed their marathon, rodeo road trip. The losses came to the unlikely squads of Portland the Phoenix Suns, but after Tuesday's trip north, the Spurs play four straight and seven of eight at home.
Duncan (sore left knee) and Leonard (sore left knee) both didn't travel with the team to Minnesota and will be out on Tuesday.
The Timberwolves head into Tuesday's game the losers of two in a row and seven of their last eight. They are 1-3 in their last four at home and things don't get easier, not just with San Antonio coming to town, Minny will play five of its next six on the road.
On Sunday, the Wolves got clobbered by the Dallas Mavericks, 100-77 in Minnesota. The 77 points were the fewest the Wolves scored since Jan. 17 and the fewest the Mavs allowed since Dec. 1.
Against Dallas, the Wolves had four players in double figures - Derrick Williams, J.J. Barea, Mickael Gelabale and Greg Stiemsma. However, the T'Wolves shot a dismal 36.4 percent from the field and 11 percent from long range.
"You can defend the hell out of people, but if you can't make shots in this league, you're in trouble," head coach Rick Adelman said. "That's what's happening to us. Game after game, we just really struggle to put the ball in the basket. I know the injuries are part of it, but you have to find a way to get guys better shots."
In addition to Kevin Love, Chase Budinger, Malcolm Lee and Brandon Roy, who have all missed a ton of time this season, the Wolves have been without center Nikola Pekovic for the last five with an abdominal strain and forward Andrei Kirilenko, who's missed six straight with a strained left calf. Both are listed as doubtful against the Spurs.
San Antonio has won three straight against the Timberwolves, including both of this season's matchups. The Wolves won last season's two in Minnesota and those were the only two victories in the last 21 against the Spurs.