Spurs host Clippers in western affair

Two of the NBA's best take center stage on Friday night when the San Antonio Spurs welcome the Los Angeles Clippers to the AT&T Center.

The Spurs own the league's second-best record at 54-17 and are 1 1/2 games ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the top seed in the Western Conference.

The Clippers are third out west, 5 1/2 games behind the Spurs. Both teams have clinched playoff spots and now it all comes down to positioning and seeding.

The Spurs toppled another of the NBA's best on Wednesday when they knocked off the Denver Nuggets 100-99 in San Antonio. Andre Miller of the Nuggets missed a runner as time expired to give the Spurs the victory.

Tim Duncan continues to turn back time. On Wednesday, Duncan had 23 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks to lead the Spurs. Danny Green went 6-for-8 from 3- point land for 20 points.

Tony Parker (18), Kawhi Leonard (11) and Tiago Splitter (10) also scored in double figures.

"It was a great win. That's a helluva team," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "Timmy and Tony were unbelievable. Manu steps up and makes a big shot. That's what he does."

The Spurs are in the midst of a tough stretch before the postseason. Starting with the Nuggets game on Wednesday and Friday's tilt with the Clippers, San Antonio welcomes the Miami Heat and travels to Memphis to face the Grizzlies.

"It's huge because we have a lot of tough games (coming up)," Parker said of the win. "We need to take care of home court advantage."

The Clippers have won three out of four and are 1-1 on their current four-game road trip through the south. They lost to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, but followed up with a 105-91 victory Wednesday over the New Orleans Hornets.

The win over New Orleans was the Clippers' 21st road victory of the season. It is a franchise record and guaranteed the team a winning road mark for the first time in history.

The Clippers' next victory will be their 50th, which would also be a franchise first. And the Pacific Division title is within reach as the Clippers' magic number for a first-ever division title is down to just two.

"At the beginning of the season, we set some goals for the team - obviously, to win the division." Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said Tuesday. "It's all about improving throughout the season. I expect a lot from this team but more importantly they expect a lot from themselves. We just want to play as consistently as possible, count them up at the end and hopefully be healthy going into the playoffs."

The Clippers are getting healthy. Chauncey Billups returned to the lineup Wednesday night after missing three games with a strained right groin.

The Clippers have taken two of three from the Spurs this season, including a victory in San Antonio. Los Angeles, though, has dropped 26 of its last 29 in Alamo City.