After a rare home loss in their first game after the All-Star break, the San Antonio Spurs bounced back thanks to their defense.
It's been their offense that's shined recently against the Denver Nuggets.
The Spurs have averaged nearly 112 points in winning seven of eight against the Nuggets, and they may get an additional boost Sunday night at the AT&T Center if Manu Ginobili returns from a five-game absence.
San Antonio suffered just its second home loss Wednesday, falling 96-89 to Chicago as Tony Parker described his team as "rusty" after five days off.
It recovered Friday, holding woeful Charlotte to 37.3 percent shooting and riding a 55-37 rebounding edge to a 102-72 victory. To Richard Jefferson, one of four Spurs to score at least 14 points, the key was simple.
"Good team defense," said Jefferson, who's 11 of 15 from 3-point range in his last three games. "Great team defense."
San Antonio (25-11) has allowed 86.8 points per game in its last nine at home and has only surrendered 100 once at the AT&T Center this season.
That came Jan. 7 against the Nuggets (20-17), who shot 56.8 percent and scored the most points by a Spurs visitor in regulation in more than two years. San Antonio, however, was even better, putting seven players in double figures - led by Danny Green's 24 - in a 121-117 victory.
The Spurs have shot 50.1 percent and averaged 111.8 points while going 7-1 in the series since Feb. 11, 2010. After Green was the unlikely leading scorer in the home win two months ago, it was DeJuan Blair's 28 points and 12 boards that paced San Antonio in a 114-99 victory Feb. 23 in Denver.
That win came with Ty Lawson - along with Rudy Fernandez, Danilo Gallinari and Nene - on the sidelines for the Nuggets.
Ginobili was out for the Spurs, but could be back Sunday after missing five games with a strained oblique.
Lawson, meanwhile, has already returned and is coming off a career-high 15-assist performance - against just one turnover - in Denver's 117-105 win at Houston on Friday. Fernandez should be back from a six-game absence Sunday, while Gallinari and Nene are more likely to be in the lineup when Denver starts a nine-game homestand Monday against Sacramento.
As long as the speedy Lawson is running the show, Parker knows what San Antonio can expect.
"They go up and down," Parker said. "They're very good at scoring the basketball and so we're going to have to be ready to match their energy."
The Nuggets are already the NBA's highest-scoring team at 103.8 points per game - a league-best 20.3 of which come on the fast break - and George Karl wouldn't mind if his floor general pushed it even more.
"Sometimes, when you get 15 or 20 assists, having three or four turnovers is OK," Karl said. "It's great when he doesn't (commit them). But we're actually talking to him about being less conservative and more aggressive."
Denver seems to be at its best when Lawson is scoring, going 7-3 when he puts up 18 points or more, though it came up short at San Antonio in January despite his 20 points, 10 assists and zero turnovers.
Parker has averaged 20.0 points in his last nine games against the Nuggets, but Denver may want to keep a close eye on Green as well. Two of his four 16-plus point efforts this season have come against the Nuggets.
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