Even without Tony Parker, the San Antonio Spurs have maintained a slight edge at the top of the Western Conference standings. But that could be in jeopardy if the Spurs don't shore up their defense, which has been uncharacteristically poor in recent games.
San Antonio's home dominance against the Golden State Warriors also may be in danger of ending.
The Spurs will try to beat the Warriors for the 29th straight time in San Antonio on Wednesday night.
San Antonio (51-16) has managed to stay afloat without Parker, remaining in first place and going 5-2 since he suffered a left ankle sprain. Still, with the playoffs a month away, the team is looking to improve what has been less-than-stellar defense of late.
The Spurs beat Cleveland 119-113 at home Saturday, but let the Kyrie Irving-less Cavaliers shoot 50.6 percent. San Antonio, which is allowing 96.5 points per game this season, has yielded 107 or more in three of its last five games, with those five opponents shooting 50.8 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from 3-point range.
Coach Gregg Popovich, who was ejected in the first half Saturday after receiving two technical fouls, said he's "concerned and disappointed" by the trend.
"We know we can do it," Manu Ginobili said of the Spurs playing better defense. "Golden State's a great test because they have a lot of scorers, they move the ball well. It's going to be a good defensive test for us."
The Spurs haven't seen a significant drop-off offensively, with Tim Duncan increasing his production in the last two games. Duncan, who is averaging 17.1 points and 9.8 rebounds on the season, has totaled 58 and 31 in a pair of wins, including a 92-91 victory over Dallas last week.
He may need to continue to carry a heavier load. Parker returned to practice Tuesday, but it's unclear when he'll be ready for game action.
The Warriors (39-30) have returned to form, winning four of five following a 5-12 stretch. They're coming off the franchise's first-ever back-to-back road wins by 20 points or more, and defense wasn't a problem at all as they limited Houston and New Orleans to an average of 75.0 points on 33.1 percent shooting.
"We're a good team," Stephen Curry said. "We're focused on a mission and we never lost confidence in the down part of the year that we had the last couple months. We feel like when we're on top of our game and locked in and everybody's healthy and ready to go, we're a team to be reckoned with and match up with anybody."
Curry has totaled 59 points in the first two games of this trip and is averaging 34.3 on 54.2 percent shooting in his last six on the road.
Golden State ended a 16-game overall losing streak against the Spurs with a 107-101 overtime win at home Feb. 22. Jarrett Jack, who is averaging 25.8 points and 8.5 assists in his last four games versus San Antonio, scored a season-high 30 while David Lee added 25 points and 22 rebounds.
Jack had 20 points and 10 assists while starting in place of an injured Curry in a 95-88 loss at San Antonio on Jan. 18. The Warriors' last road win against the Spurs was on Feb. 14, 1997, when their leading scorer was Latrell Sprewell and Duncan was playing at Wake Forest.
It's the longest active road drought for any NBA team against another.
"We don't really pay attention to those stats because every year is different, every team is different," Parker said after the January matchup. "Golden State is for real. They are a really, really good team. It's going to be tough against them."