DENVER — No team in NBA history ever fared better in a stretch of nine consecutive road games than the Spurs did on the rodeo road trip that concluded Thursday with a 114-99 victory in Denver.
Awaiting the Spurs when this weekend’s All-Star break concludes: Seven straight at the ATT Center, where they are 13-1. It is the second-best home-court record in the league, behind only Oklahoma City’s 15-1 mark. The seven-game homestand is to begin Wednesday with a game against the Chicago Bulls, whose 27-8 record is second-best in the Eastern Conference.
DeJuan Blair, who matched his career high with 28 points to spark the Spurs to their 114-99 victory in Denver, said it was more important to focus on the game in Denver as the first game of the second half of the season, rather than the end of the rodeo trip.
“We’re playing great, and we’re ready for the second half of the season,” Blair said. “The first half is over and we played good. We went 8-1 on the road trip. It was pretty cool, but we’ve got to keep playing. The first game back is Chicago, so we know we’ve got to keep playing well and just play hard.”
Blair’s most productive game of the season on Thursday was tonic for the Spurs’ interior game that is missing second-year center Tiago Splitter, likely to miss the first three games of the homestand. He made 12 of 21 shots — season highs in both categories — and grabbed 12 rebounds in 35 minutes, another season high.
Coach Gregg Popovich was happy to see Blair’s aggression.
“He and Tony (Parker) worked really well together,” he said. “Tony got him in positions where he had the ball, but DeJuan’s a really unique player. You never know what you’re going to get, as far as how he’s going to score.”
Avoiding a bad conversation: Popovich found himself rationalizing his decision to rest both Tim Duncan and Parker in Tuesday’s blowout loss in Portland, but he had an easy answer for everyone who questioned it: Duncan’s chronically sore left knee, diagnosed with tendinosis and supported by a knee brace in every practice and game, simply can’t be overworked if he is going to be effective during the playoffs.
“Everybody is going to do it at some point this season,” he said, “and it’s based on minutes played. Sometimes, it’s just got to give, and you’ve got to sit them in hopes it will pay off down the road and Timmy won’t come to me and say, ‘My knee is hurting.’
“I don’t want to hear that statement, and if he plays every game, I will hear that statement before playoffs. I’m just trying to guard against it, and if I make an error I will make it in the direction of caution, rather than the other direction.”
Missing Orlando: Splitter said his strained right calf muscle responded well to treatment he has received while remaining with the team and its athletic training staff for the final three games of the rodeo road trip. His leg feels better than he anticipated a week after the injury occurred during the Spurs’ win over the Clippers in Los Angeles.
He had been selected to play in the Rising Stars Challenge, the first event of All-Star Weekend in Orlando.
“I will miss it,” he said, “but it is very important I continue to receive treatment on my injury. (Head athletic trainer) Will (Sevening) has done a great job, and it is improving a lot.”