Both the Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs are banged up heading down the stretch and hope their health improves before the postseason.
They also still have plenty to play for until then.
Denver seeks a franchise-record 21st straight home victory Wednesday night in its quest for home-court advantage versus San Antonio, which is in a tight battle for the Western Conference's top seed.
The Nuggets (53-24) have won 19 of 21 overall, but they've been forced to move forward without their two leading scorers. They lost Danilo Gallinari for the season due to a torn ACL suffered Thursday versus Dallas, and Ty Lawson has sat out four straight and seven of the last eight games with a plantar fascia tear in his right foot.
Lawson is hoping to return before the playoffs as Denver holds a slim lead on Memphis for the third seed. With the Los Angeles Clippers locked into a top-four seed due as a division winner, Denver or Memphis will end up as the No. 5 seed.
"My team has been very good about meeting challenges, both schedule-wise and injury-wise and perseverance-wise," coach George Karl said. "They have a competitive spirit that for a young team is pretty strong.'
That certainly showed in Saturday's 132-114 win over Houston, as the Nuggets set a season high for points scored. They improved to an NBA-best 35-3 at home, where they haven't lost since falling to Washington on Jan. 18.
"I've played with Gallo nearly my whole career. I kind of look at him as more than just a teammate," Wilson Chandler, who scored 21 points starting in place of Gallinari, told the team's official website.
``We have a very deep team and we have a lot of players step up."
Corey Brewer scored 22 points off the bench, while Andre Iguodala added 18 and a season-high 14 assists. The Nuggets, who have won four straight, forced 19 turnovers and rank near the top of the league forcing 15.9 per game.
"We pride ourselves on playing fast, and when you get into this altitude, you can't play the way we play," Brewer said.
The Spurs, who have won nine of the last 12 meetings, will attempt to keep up, though they may not have Tony Parker (neck) or Manu Ginobili (hamstring) because of injuries. Boris Diaw will sit out with a lumbar facet sprain.
Parker has missed two of the last three games and Ginobili the last five.
San Antonio (57-20) holds a slim lead on Oklahoma City for the West's top spot, though it had dropped three of four prior to Saturday's 99-97 win over Atlanta.
"We're not in a great rhythm right now,' said Tim Duncan, who scored 31 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and added four blocks. ``Honestly, the injuries are hurting us. We lost some close ones for a little while and that can push you over the top or that can set you back a little bit."
Duncan has stepped up of late, averaging 23.0 points and 12.0 rebounds over his last 11, including a 23-point, 14-rebound performance in a 100-99 win over Denver on March 27.
"We're so lucky to have him here for as long as we have," coach Gregg Popovich said. "He's an ultimate professional and he rose above a lot to do it."
Duncan scored 31 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in a 112-106 loss Dec. 18 at Denver, though the Spurs have won four of their last six at the Pepsi Center.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved