The San Antonio Spurs have won three straight on the road, stabilizing what has been a rocky midseason stretch.
There’s no stability in sight for the New York Knicks, who will hope to avoid their second eight-game losing streak of the season on Friday when they host the defending NBA champions.
The Spurs (31-16) had gone just 11-11 in their previous 22 games before leaving on a nine-game road trip because the rodeo is in San Antonio.
They dropped the first two games of the trip, but have since won three straight, improving their record away from home to 11-11 and remaining 1 1/2 games behind Dallas and New Orleans in the Southwest Division.
The Spurs beat Washington 85-77 on Wednesday, holding the Wizards to 35.4 percent shooting. Opponents have shot just 41.9 percent and averaged 86.4 points on the trip against the Spurs, whose scoring defense ranks third in the league (91.1).
“I’m just happy to make a shot. I haven’t knocked down a shot in ages,” said Horry, who is averaging just 1.9 points this season. “The last two games, I haven’t knocked one down, so I’m just happy to get some kind of rhythm going.”
The victory over the Wizards was also the Spurs’ third in five games against winning teams, following a stretch where they had lost seven in a row against opponents with records over .500. They have only lost three times all season to clubs with losing records.
The Spurs continue to play without point guard Tony Parker, who has missed the last four games and is out until at least after the All-Star break with an ankle injury. Point guard Damon Stoudamire has started the last two games since signing with the Spurs, averaging 10.0 points and just 1.5 assists.
But shooting guard Manu Ginobili has started the last four games, averaging 6.5 assists over that span. He matched a career high with 10 assists against the Wizards, and the Spurs have 57 assists in the last two games - their most in a two-game stretch all season.
The Knicks (14-35) haven’t had their point guard for nearly a month as Stephon Marbury recovers from ankle surgery, but they’ve struggled both with and without him.
New York lost its seven straight for the third time this season on Wednesday, falling 103-100 at home to Indiana - which had dropped seven in a row coming in.
“Getting very old,” Knicks guard Jamal Crawford said. “It’s frustrating. I think we’ve had leads in five of the seven games … and find ways to lose.”
The Knicks outrebounded Indiana 49-34 and had three players with at least 20 points, led by Zach Randolph’s 26. But they had just three field goals in the final 8 1/2 minutes as the Pacers came from behind to win.
New York has lost by an average of just 6.1 points during its skid, including three times by three points or fewer and once in overtime.
The Knicks played the Spurs tough earlier this season, losing 97-93 in San Antonio on Jan. 4. Both squads were shorthanded in that game, as Randolph was serving a suspension while Ginobili was injured.
The Spurs have won five straight and eight of nine overall against the Knicks.