The San Antonio Spurs own a 10-game winning streak and the league's best record as their annual rodeo road trip begins.
The best news, though, is they expect Tim Duncan to play during the trek.
It's uncertain if that will happen for the opener after he suffered a scary-looking injury, but the Spurs still shouldn't expect much trouble Wednesday night with the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves.
Duncan was down for several minutes after Washington's Martell Webster rolled into the back of his legs in the second quarter of Saturday's 96-86 victory. The two-time MVP had to be helped to the locker room.
An MRI on Sunday, though, revealed no structural damage. Duncan suffered only a mild right ankle sprain and is listed as day to day with a sore knee, a problem which caused him to miss the previous four games.
"When you first see it, nothing positive in your mind pops up," guard Gary Neal said. "... But it was nothing serious and Timmy will probably be back in the middle of the road trip."
The 14-time All-Star, however, was shooting jumpers at practice Monday, and the team has yet to say when he is expected to play. One member of the Spurs said he would not be shocked if coach Gregg Popovich played Duncan on Wednesday.
"You can't be surprised of nothing that happens between (Duncan) and Pop," swingman Stephen Jackson said. "... They have a relationship like no other. I wouldn't be surprised. They do a great job of communicating, they've been together for so long. I think they know how each other feel and I think Pop will make the right decision."
This is the first of nine straight road games - broken up by All-Star weekend - while the rodeo takes over the AT&T Center. The Spurs were 8-1 on last year's trip and have never had a losing record on this extended road swing, which they first took in 2003.
"If you know you're winning, it's always fun," Neal said of these treks. "So hopefully we'll be able to get out to a good start against Minnesota on the trip and continue to build from there."
San Antonio (38-11) is riding its fourth double-digit win streak in 13 months but first this season. The 10 opponents on this run have been held to an average of 90.8 points.
Offensively, Tony Parker has keyed the surge. He's been particularly good over the last five games, shooting 65.8 percent while averaging 23.8 points and 9.8 assists.
Parker had 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting in a 106-88 home win over Minnesota on Jan. 13 in this season's only meeting. Duncan had a season-high seven blocks, but even if he doesn't play Wednesday, San Antonio seems to have a good shot at its 19th win in the last 21 meetings.
The Timberwolves (18-27), losers in 12 of 14, haven't defeated the Spurs without Kevin Love since 2007. Love, out with a broken hand, averaged 21.0 points and 15.5 rebounds in two wins over San Antonio last season after Minnesota had lost 16 straight in the series.
The Timberwolves' other starting forward also could be sidelined. Andrei Kirilenko strained his right quadriceps in Monday's 100-98 home loss to Portland and did not return.
Ricky Rubio tied a career high with 14 assists and added a season-best 15 points. Dante Cunningham, 20 of 27 from the field in the last two games, scored a career-high 23 as Minnesota nearly overcame a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
"If we play like that, we can play with anybody," center Nikola Pekovic said.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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