New Orleans (31-31) at San Antonio (34-24)

Partly Cloudy Currently: San Antonio, TX
Temp: 68° F
  • Game info: 9:30 pm EST Fri Mar 5, 2010
  • TV: ESPN, KENS
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Since defeating the New Orleans Hornets earlier this week, the San Antonio Spurs have enjoyed a couple of days off.

There will be no such break for the veteran-laden club over the next 3 1/2 weeks.

In the mix for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference, the Spurs embark on a demanding portion of their schedule Friday night when they host the Hornets.

With less than six weeks remaining in the regular season, San Antonio (34-24) finds itself in an unfamiliar position - struggling to solidify a playoff spot. The Spurs, who have won the Southwest Division four of the past five seasons, are just percentage points ahead of eighth-place Portland in the West.

The next few weeks appear to be critical for San Antonio’s playoff aspirations, with games against Atlanta, Boston, Orlando, the Los Angeles Lakers and two with Cleveland.

“We know how tough it’s going to get,” guard Manu Ginobili(notes) said. “We really need to improve. If we don’t improve and take a step forward, we can probably not make (the playoffs).”

Having been off since Monday’s 106-92 win at New Orleans, Ginobili, Tim Duncan(notes) and Tony Parker(notes) should be plenty rested for the rematch. These aging veterans won’t have much time off over the next few weeks.

The Spurs play 15 games in the next 25 days, including five back-to-back sets.

“It’s going to decide our season,” Parker said. “We have a lot of big games and a lot of back-to-backs. We have a good opportunity. We’ve played pretty well the last two games, so hopefully we can keep it going.”

San Antonio has actually played pretty well in its last three games, scoring at least 104 points in each of those contests after reaching the century mark twice in the previous eight.

The Spurs shot 50.6 percent Monday and could find similar success in the rematch at the AT&T Center, where they’ve won 10 of the last 11 meetings.

The Hornets (31-31), five games back for the conference’s final playoff spot, have lost five of six. Their defense has struggled in those defeats, allowing an average of 107.6 points on 50.5 percent shooting.

“As a team, I don’t think we have a good rhythm. We’re not playing fluid basketball,” forward David West(notes) said following a 104-100 loss to Memphis on Wednesday. “Basketball is a rhythm game and everybody has to be on the same page as far as feeling good and confident about what we are going out there to do.”

The Spurs were able to limit Darren Collison(notes) to 10 points Monday, but the rookie point guard was still effective with 15 assists. Collison, averaging 22.2 points in his last 12 games while starting for the injured Chris Paul(notes), had 17 points and 14 assists Wednesday as New Orleans lost its third straight.

The Hornets are in danger of falling below .500 for the first time since they were 15-16 on Jan. 2 and are on the verge of their first four-game skid since Jan. 30-Feb. 4, 2009.

“This is our rough stretch,” coach Jeff Bower said. “There are teams ahead of us that have a rough stretch coming, too, when you look at the schedule. We have to make sure that we keep ourselves positioned to take advantage of that when that happens.”

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Friday, Mar 5