As they come out of the All-Star break, the San Antonio Spurs are not just focused on maintaining the NBA's best record. They're also hoping to remain fully healthy.
The red-hot Spurs will open the second half of the season by trying to extend their lengthy road win streak over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
San Antonio had to endure injuries to stars Tim Duncan (knee), Tony Parker (knee) and Manu Ginobili (hamstring) just before the break but had all three players back for a 96-95 victory in Cleveland on Wednesday.
Kawhi Leonard's 3-pointer with 2.9 seconds left helped the Spurs (42-12) stay 2 1/2 games in front of Oklahoma City for the best record in the league.
"It's a great position to be in, obviously, but we want to be healthy at the end of the season. That's our goal," Duncan said after playing eight minutes in Sunday's All-Star game. "Hopefully, we can do that in the second half and hopefully ramp it up toward the end and get our momentum going."
San Antonio has four games remaining on its season-high nine-game road stretch, then it will play 17 of its final 24 at home.
"We love playing on the road, but it'll be nice to be home for a little bit," Parker said after totaling 13 points and five assists Sunday in Houston.
Parker will try to help the Spurs improve to 15-1 in their last 16 games and 8-1 in their last nine on the road. A matchup with the Kings (19-35) would appear to provide a great opportunity to accomplish both tasks.
San Antonio's nine-game road win streak against Sacramento is tied for the second-longest active run in the NBA. The Los Angeles Lakers have won 10 in a row in Minnesota.
"It's always tough the first game after the All-Star break so we have to make sure we focus," Parker said.
The Kings are 3-10 in their last 13 and dropped back-to-back games before the break, the latest a 123-100 defeat in Dallas on Wednesday.
"We've seen a lot of ups and downs," coach Keith Smart said. "We've had players in and out with injuries and suspensions so we've never had a great chance for our team to grow. Obviously, we're not where we wanted to be."
Sacramento, though, has won two straight at home and might have a little more support than usual in its final 15 games there.
Mayor Kevin Johnson is trying to keep the Kings from moving to Seattle and is expected to provide a financing plan to the NBA in the next two weeks. The franchise's fate will likely be determined during the league's owners meeting April 17-18.
A Seattle-based group of investors has already reached an agreement with the Maloof family to buy 65 percent of the franchise.
Isaiah Thomas will try to provide a distraction in his return from All-Star weekend, where he participated in the Rising Stars Challenge. Thomas has scored a combined 48 points in the past two home games and has made all 35 free throws in seven overall contests this month.
After averaging 24.5 points over his previous two home games against San Antonio, Thomas was held to 10 on 3-of-11 shooting in a 97-86 loss Nov. 9. Duncan had 23 points and 12 rebounds as the Spurs improved to 15-1 in the last 16 matchups.
The Associated Press News Service
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