The San Antonio Spurs may feel unfamiliar in their own arena as they prepare for their first home game in more than three weeks.
Bouncing back from a loss could seem even more foreign to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The struggling Spurs hope to get point guard Tony Parker(notes) back as they return from their rodeo road trip Wednesday night against the Thunder, who will try to regroup quickly after their nine-game winning streak was snapped.
Oklahoma City surged past the Spurs in the standings during its impressive run, but the Thunder (33-22) blew a 10-point lead in the final 3:30 of a 104-102 home loss to Phoenix on Tuesday.
It has still been an impressive renaissance for a franchise that went 43-121 over the previous two seasons.
Durant’s emergence has been the biggest reason for the turnaround, and the former Texas star took over the NBA scoring lead after pouring in 36 against the Suns.
It was his 29th straight game with at least 25 points - the longest such streak since Michael Jordan did it in 40 straight in 1986-87 - and Durant moved slightly ahead of Cleveland’s LeBron James(notes) with 29.9 points per game.
“He’s been unbelievable,” Spurs forward Tim Duncan(notes) said of Durant. “He’s really found himself, and with his length and his offensive game, he’s really found a way to kind of get it done on a nightly basis.”
While the Thunder have the look of a rising contender in the Western Conference, the Spurs (31-23) hope they are not headed the other way.
They could realistically miss the playoffs for the first time since 1997 if they don’t improve on their recent results. San Antonio has dropped 10 of its last 17 to slip to seventh in the West - 1 1/2 games behind the sixth-place Thunder.
“We’ll make the playoffs. I’m not worried about that,” Parker said. “It’s kind of weird to see seventh, though. … Since I’ve been with the Spurs, we’ve always had 50 wins and this year it looks like it’s going to be tough to get 50 wins.”
Parker may not be on the court to help Wednesday. He scored two points on 1-of-9 shooting while dealing with a strained hip in Friday’s 106-94 loss at Philadelphia, and did not play Sunday in a 109-101 overtime defeat at Detroit.
“I tried to play through it against Philadelphia. Obviously it didn’t work out too well,” said Parker, who has also dealt with ankle and foot injuries this season. The Spurs are 5-4 when he is out of the lineup.
Duncan had 29 points and 10 rebounds against the Pistons, but San Antonio lost to finish 4-4 on its eight-game trip that straddled the All-Star break. The Spurs’ path doesn’t get much easier now, with the next seven games against teams at or over .500.
Oklahoma City has won three of its last five meetings with the Spurs, including a 101-98 victory at San Antonio on Nov. 14. The Spurs got revenge in Oklahoma City on Jan. 13, with rookie DeJuan Blair(notes) notching career highs of 28 points and 21 rebounds in a 109-108 overtime win.
“For the last couple years, they’ve given us real problems,” Duncan said. “We know we have a battle on our hands, and we know what it means right now.”