Coming off victories over two of the Eastern Conference’s top contenders, the San Antonio Spurs may deserve a reprieve.
They’re likely to get one in the form of the NBA-worst New Jersey Nets.
Surging San Antonio goes for its 15th straight victory over the woeful Nets Monday night at IZOD Center.
Winners of 12 of their last 16, the Spurs (44-28) are currently tied with Oklahoma City and percentage points ahead of Portland for sixth place in the West. They’ve surged despite the fact that star guard Tony Parker(notes) has missed the 12 last games with a broken hand.
Manu Ginobili(notes) has filled in admirably as a starter, averaging 24.2 points. He scored 30 in Friday’s 102-97 victory over NBA-best Cleveland, then had 28 points and seven assists Sunday night to help San Antonio open this two-game trip with a 94-73 rout of Atlantic Division-leading Boston.
“He’s basically taken over the team,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s been the same Manu we’ve had when we won championships. Without Tony, it’s really important for somebody to step up, and he’s done it.”
The Nets (9-64) need only one victory in their final nine games to avoid matching the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers for the worst record in NBA history, but that win doesn’t appear likely to come against San Antonio. New Jersey has dropped 14 straight in this series since a 91-82 home win Nov. 13, 2002. Led by Ginobili’s 21 points and Tim Duncan’s(notes) 14 points and 17 rebounds, the host Spurs defeated New Jersey 97-85 on Jan. 10.
The Nets had won consecutive games - both at home - for the first time all season, but saw their bid for a three-game winning streak end Saturday when they totaled 37 first-half points en route to a 106-83 loss at Chicago.
“We just did not come out to play tonight,” interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe said. “We didn’t have the energy we the past few games. We didn’t have the drive or the intensity. Everybody struggled. I don’t think there was too many exceptions tonight.”
Despite the back-to-back road games, fatigue shouldn’t be an issue for Duncan in Monday’s matchup against Nets center Brook Lopez(notes). The San Antonio star played only 27 minutes in the win over the Celtics, finishing with eight points with nine rebounds.
Duncan, who is seven points shy of passing Mitch Richmond (20,497) for 33rd all-time, had 27 with nine boards and eight assists in the Spurs’ last visit to New Jersey - a 108-93 victory Feb. 10, 2009.
Spurs forward Richard Jefferson(notes), who posted his second double-double of the season Sunday with 16 points and a season high-tying 11 rebounds, looks for another big game on his former home court. After New Jersey dealt him to Milwaukee prior to last season, Jefferson averaged 28.0 points and 8.0 boards in two visits to IZOD Center in 2008-09.
Lopez had 28 points and 11 rebounds in the Jan. 10 loss in San Antonio. He’s averaging 20.3 points and 7.7 boards in three career games versus the Spurs.