Winners of nine straight games, the San Antonio Spurs hope No. 10 ends with them having the best record in the NBA.
The Spurs will look to break the tie atop the league when they take on the visiting Portland Trail Blazers.
San Antonio has won 38 of 45 games in 2003, including 17 victories in its last 18 on the road, and is now tied with Dallas for the best record in the NBA, one game ahead of Pacific Division-leading Sacramento in the race for the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
The Mavericks lost to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night 108-99, moving the idle Spurs into the tie.
If the Spurs don’t overtake the Mavericks in the Midwest Division race, they will be the third seed in the playoffs and possibly face the three-time defending champion Lakers in the first round. Los Angeles eliminated San Antonio from the playoffs the past two seasons.
“It doesn’t really matter who we face,” Tim Duncan said. “We’re trying to get that No. 1 spot. If that works out, that’s great. If it doesn’t and we play the Lakers in the first round, we’ll play them in the first round.
“We’re not afraid to play them.”
While San Antonio is thinking home-court advantage throughout the Western playoffs, Portland is trying to hold off Minnesota for the fourth seed and home-court in the first round. The Trail Blazers beat Houston 81-66 on Tuesday, holding the Rockets to a franchise-low 29.5 percent shooting from the field.
“We did a good job with our defense,” Portland’s Dale Davis said. “I thought we stepped up our defense in the third quarter. We forced them to do other things than what they normally do. They have players that can put up big numbers but they didn’t do that tonight.”
The Blazers held the Rockets without a field goal for a span 8:29, bridging the third and fourth quarters. Houston shot just 3-for-24 in the third.
Portland holds a one-game lead over Minnesota, but the Timberwolves have the tiebreaker, having won the season series. Portland has the tougher schedule left, with road games against San Antonio and Memphis before ending with Phoenix and the Lakers at home.
Minnesota has four games left, playing Wednesday at Seattle before hosting the Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago. The Timberwolves then finish the regular season at Memphis.
STANDINGS: Trail Blazers - 2nd place, 8 GB, Pacific Division. Spurs - 1st place (tied), Midwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Trail Blazers - Wallace, 18.6 ppg and 7.5 rpg; Scottie Pippen, 4.5 apg. Spurs - Duncan, 23.6 ppg and 12.9 rpg; Parker, 5.4 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Trail Blazers, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 11; Spurs, 116-111, OT. At Portland, Rose, starting in place of the injured David Robinson, scored 21 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in a game-high 48 minutes, and Emmanuel Ginobili hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 42 seconds left in overtime to seal the victory. Wallace scored 25 points to lead the Blazers, who had a four-game winning streak snapped.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Trail Blazers - 22-15 on the road; Spurs - 31-7 at home.
INJURIES: Trail Blazers - G Pippen (knee); G Charles Smith (ankle); C Chris Dudley (side). Spurs - C Mengke Bateer (tendinitis).