DENVER — Even before their captain went down in a heap Monday against Golden State, the Spurs viewed their upcoming three-game road trip with a wary eye.
On the docket: Denver, then Portland, then Memphis — three teams still fighting for Western Conference playoff seeding and, in the case of the eighth-place Grizzlies, their playoff lives.
With All-Star power forward Tim Duncan likely out for all three games with a sprained left ankle, an already tough trip got that much tougher for the Spurs.
“It’s going to be very hard, because all three teams are playing great,” Manu Ginobili said. “They are all tough at home, and they need wins. Hopefully, we can win at least two.”
Two of the three teams on the itinerary — Portland and Memphis — have handed the Spurs two of their more embarrassing losses of the season.
The Trail Blazers smacked the Spurs 99-86 on Feb. 1, the first night of their rodeo road trip. On March 1, the Spurs went into Memphis and, with Tony Parker sidelined, were blasted 109-93.
The Spurs are 3-0 this season against Denver, tonight’s opponent at the Pepsi Center. However, the Nuggets are 10-4 — and undefeated at home — since dealing Carmelo Anthony to New York at the trade deadline.
All three of those opponents feature fearsome big men against whom Duncan would have been of use.
“With Tim out, everybody is going to have to pick up the slack,” said Antonio McDyess, who will slide to the power forward slot to make way for a new starting center. “The bench, the starters, everyone.”
Either rookie Tiago Splitter or second-year man DeJuan Blair will likely take Duncan’s place in the starting lineup, but Parker said it will be up to him and Ginobili to shoulder most of the extra burden.
Blair back: After missing Monday’s game with a sprained left wrist, Blair is expected to be available tonight in Denver. After Tuesday’s practice, Blair and general manager R.C. Buford called the decision to sit him against Golden State precautionary.
“I could have played but picked a night to sit out,” Blair said. “I’m back now and just going to fight through the pain.”
What’s up, Docs?: Citing team doctors, Spurs TV analyst Sean Elliott told FSN Southwest viewers in the second half Monday that Duncan could miss two weeks with his injury.
“If he’s that good as a doctor, I think he should change jobs,” Ginobili cracked.
Parker, meanwhile, couldn’t resist a playful jab at the team’s medical staff, which earlier this month offered a prognosis of 2-4 weeks on his calf injury that healed in five days.
“We’ll see if the doctor is accurate this time,” Parker said. “He wasn’t accurate with me.”