Winning might not be so easy if their 13-time All-Star remains sidelined for long.
With Duncan out indefinitely, the Spurs look to inch closer to wrapping up the top seed in the Western Conference when they visit the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.
The Spurs (57-13), who already have clinched a playoff berth and own a big lead atop the West, have made 13 consecutive postseason appearances and won four championships since drafting Duncan No. 1 overall in 1997.
Duncan landed awkwardly after scoring early in the first quarter Monday night and did not return in a 111-96 win over Golden State. An MRI taken Tuesday confirmed he sprained his left ankle.
Duncan will stay in San Antonio for rehabilitation during the team’s three-game road trip which begins Wednesday, but the Spurs are unsure how much time he will miss. He hasn’t sat out more than seven games in a season since 2004-05.
While Duncan is averaging career lows with 13.3 points and 9.0 rebounds, he’s recorded a team-best 1.9 blocks per game. His teammates aren’t sure how the season will play out if he misses an extended period.
“It’s really hard to tell,” said Manu Ginobili(notes), who scored 28 points Monday. “You never know. I’m guessing that (coach Gregg Popovich) is going to be extra cautious … but we need him in the court.”
“Tiago is going to give you that every night,” Popovich said. “He’s going to bust his butt to rebound and play defense. He’s going to give you that grunt that every team needs and every coach loves.”
It’s likely Splitter will start in Duncan’s place after doing so Saturday against Charlotte, when Popovich gave his star big man a night to rest. That’s the only game Duncan has missed this season.
The Spurs have won seven of the last eight games they’ve played without Duncan, and they enter this matchup having won six of seven overall.
They’ve won five straight over the Nuggets, including three this season.
Denver (42-29) is fifth in the West but four games behind fourth-place Oklahoma City.
“They probably have too much of a gap on us,” coach George Karl said. “But let’s try to scare them. You never know in basketball.”
Denver defeated Toronto 123-90 on Monday night for its seventh straight home win - the last three were by an average of 34.4 points.
“We’re definitely playing great at home,” forward Danilo Gallinari(notes), acquired in the Anthony deal, told the Nuggets’ official website. “I remember when I was in New York, it was tough to come to come into Denver and play the Nuggets because of the altitude and many reasons.”
Lawson, who took over as the starting point guard when Chauncey Billups(notes) left in the Anthony trade, is averaging 16.3 points and 8.1 assists in 10 games this month. He entered March averaging 10.3 points and 3.9 assists.