At the halfway point last season, the San Antonio Spurs were nine games above .500 and 2 1/2 behind Dallas for the Southwest Division lead. They’re enjoying a much better place in the standings this year.
The Western Conference-leading Spurs look to win 16 in a row at home for the first time in nearly six years and earn a seventh straight victory overall when they open the second half of their season Wednesday night against the Toronto Raptors.
After opening 25-16 last season - their worst first half since Tim Duncan(notes) was drafted first overall in 1997 - the Spurs (35-6) are off to the best start in franchise history and hold an 8 1/2-game divisional lead over the Mavericks.
“Maybe we coached better (than last season). Maybe the players played better. Maybe we were lucky. Who knows,” coach Gregg Popovich said following Monday’s practice. “We’ll just try to keep doing what we’re doing.”
With the third-best first-half record in league history and best since Detroit went 36-5 in 2005-06, the Spurs will look to continue their strong play at home, where they are an NBA-best 22-2 following Sunday’s 110-97 victory over Denver.
San Antonio is undefeated at the AT&T Center since a 103-94 loss to Dallas on Nov. 26, and it last won 16 in a row at home Dec. 11, 2004-Feb. 23, 2005.
The Spurs continue their four-game homestand against a Toronto team ravaged by injuries.
With Leandro Barbosa(notes) (hamstring) and Jerryd Bayless(notes) (ankle) each missing their second straight game, and starting forward Linas Kleiza(notes) (knee) added to a growing list of injured Raptors, Toronto (13-28) blew a 12-point lead in the second half in dropping its fourth in a row Monday, 85-81 to New Orleans.
So would a victory over San Antonio, which has won 20 of 29 all-time matchups with Toronto despite splitting the last three season series.
With Duncan and Parker sidelined with ankle injuries, Manu Ginobili(notes) scored 36 points off the bench to lift San Antonio to its eighth victory in nine home games in this matchup, 131-124 on Nov. 9, 2010.
Scoring 103.9 points per game and shooting 48.4 percent during their home winning streak, the Spurs could post more big numbers if the Raptors don’t improve their defensive rebounding. Toronto allowed 19 offensive boards in Monday’s defeat.
“They got second chances and you can only give up so many of those, even if you hold a team to 39 percent (shooting),” said coach Jay Triano, whose team finishes it five-game trip with matchups against Orlando and Miami. “I think we might have got a little bit tired.”