Injuries, age, even haunted hotel rooms. None of that has been enough to stop the San Antonio Spurs machine.
The Spurs dismantled the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night. It was another unyielding effort in the second game of a back-to-back and ran their winning streak to 17 in a row, which tied a franchise record.
They've weathered injuries to Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, haven't seen age slow Tim Duncan or Ginobili and even overcame a scare at the Claremont Resort in Berkley, Calif., last week to rack up a league-high 57 victories.
In town to play the Golden State, Jeff Ayres and Duncan both told reporters that they were certain they heard the noises of a baby coming from Ayres' room before he checked in. When the front desk called the room, there was no one in there. Duncan said the experience gave him chills, but the Spurs are the ones striking fear in the rest of the league.
They lead Oklahoma City by 3½ games for the NBA's best record and have put it all together with the playoffs approaching. They are looking to make another run at the title after losing to Miami in seven games last season.
"This (winning streak) is great challenge," Duncan said. "It's a big challenge. People can get lackadaisical and look past certain games. We've done a good job of not doing that."
Here are five things to watch this week.
WIZARDS AT BOBCATS: When is the last time a Wizards-Bobcats game in late March meant anything? But seventh-seeded Charlotte is three games behind sixth-seeded Washington in the East. The Bobcats get the Wizards twice in the final eight games to try to chase them down, including Monday night.
BEVERLEY'S IMPACT: The Houston Rockets are going to find out just how important injured point guard Patrick Beverley is this week. They run a gauntlet of top PGs when they face Oklahoma City and Russell Westbrook, Toronto and Kyle Lowry, Brooklyn and Deron Williams and Denver and Ty Lawson.
LAKER WOES: The NBA's marquee franchise has rarely seen tougher times, and the Lakers may have hit rock bottom last week. They lost to the Milwaukee Bucks, the worst team in the league, then trailed by as many as 41 points in a loss to Minnesota on Friday night. "If we don't get it together, we're going to be in for some long nights," coach Mike D'Antoni said.
AWFUL BUCKS: The Philadelphia 76ers lost 26 games in a row, and it still wasn't enough to catch Milwaukee for the worst record in the league. The Bucks have a two-game cushion in that lowly department. After the Wisconsin Badgers advanced to the Final Four on Saturday night, Charles Barkley cracked, "That team would beat the Bucks. Ain't no doubt about it."
DIENG'S EMERGENCE: Timberwolves rookie C Gorgui Dieng barely saw the court through the first half of the season, averaging 6.4 minutes in his first 41 games. But he started six games for the injured Nikola Pekovic and posted double-doubles in five of those contests. He is averaging 12.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 32 minutes. In a weak year for rookies, Dieng might have a shot at playing his way onto an All-Rookie team with one good month.
STAT LINE OF THE WEEK: 76ers 123, Pistons 98. It had been two long months since Philly had won a game, a string of futility that tied the NBA record for consecutive losses. But they cruised over the hapless Pistons on Saturday night, getting a standing ovation from their crowd in the third quarter to avoid owning the record outright.
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