The San Antonio Spurs are the hottest team in the NBA over the past three weeks and will look to stay that way when they host the stumbling New York Knicks on Friday at the AT&T Center.
Despite San Antonio's recent success, its eight-game winning streak at home -- and the Knicks overall ineptitude this season -- the Spurs will have no problem focusing on New York. The Knicks beat San Antonio in the two teams' only other matchup this season 130-118 in the Big Apple on Feb. 24, in a game that the Spurs struggled defensively and basically failed to show up for.
It's doubtful that San Antonio needs to use that loss as motivation, but expect the Spurs to play a lot better.
The Spurs (39-29) have won six straight games, the longest active winning streak in the league. No other team in the NBA has won more than two straight heading into Thursday's games.
San Antonio heads home after a 112-105 victory over the Mavericks in Dallas in which DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge each went 11 of 19 from the floor on the way to scoring 33 and 28 points, respectively.
Derrick White added 23 points for the Spurs, and Davis Bertans chipped in 11 points off the bench in the win.
"It's a challenge to understand and figure out how to pull these games out because they're just as important as any other game," DeRozan told reporters. "Going into playoffs, you've got to have that type of mentality of being resilient."
The Spurs seem to have turned a corner after a 1-7 Rodeo Road Trip last month, but coach Gregg Popovich refused to make any assumptions about his team.
"It's just like any other year -- we've always tried to be the best team we could be by the time the playoffs arrive, and we hope that we will be part of the playoffs," Popovich said. "This group is getting better. They've got a ways to go. We can continue to improve and hopefully that will get us in, and we can do well."
Rudy Gay, who has missed San Antonio's past two games with the flu, is expected to return on Friday.
The Knicks (13-55) head to South Texas on the heels of 103-98 loss at Indiana on Tuesday. New York has dropped seven consecutive games since beating San Antonio and Orlando for a modest two-game win streak late last month.
Emmanuel Mudiay led the Knicks with 21 points off the bench in the loss, with Damyean Dotson scoring 18, Kevin Knox adding 16 points and DeAndre Jordan hitting for 12 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.
"We fought the whole game and made some good runs, they made a run, but we didn't give up," Knox said. "They just made some plays late."
The Knicks recorded 19 turnovers in the loss at Indiana, opportunities wasted that ultimately doomed New York in a close game. New York has the worst record in the league.
"It's tough, but we understand what got us there -- it's the turnovers that really got us," Knicks coach David Fizdale said. "We just can't afford to give so many possessions away."
San Antonio owns a 52-40 all-time edge over the Knicks and has won 35 of the 46 games played against New York in the Alamo City, including four straight.
--Field Level Media
Spurs aim to remain hot against sinking Knicks