(AP) – Over this past week, the San Antonio Spurs have shut down some of the league’s top offenses during a remarkable defensive turnaround.
The Spurs hope to keep this going against the NBA’s highest-scoring team and become the first club to reach 30 wins Tuesday night against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
San Antonio (29-4) didn’t win its 30th game last season until Feb. 11, but is now one away from that mark following Saturday’s 101-74 victory over Oklahoma City. Tim Duncan had 21 points and nine rebounds and Tony Parker had 14 points and 10 assists as the Spurs won for the 14th time in 15 games.
Although San Antonio is off to one of the 10 best starts in NBA history and is poised to become the first team since the 2007-08 Boston Celtics to win 30 of its first 34 games, Gregg Popovich wasn’t happy with his team’s defense a week ago.
He has emphasized more focus on the defensive end, and the Spurs seem to have gotten the message.
They held the high-powered Thunder to a season low in scoring and field-goal percentage (32.9 percent) and limited NBA leading scorer Kevin Durant to 16 points.
“I hope it’s an indication that we’re getting better at (defense), because it was impressive,” Popovich said.
San Antonio has had a couple of performances similar to this over the past week, allowing an average of 82.3 points on 37.1 percent shooting in winning its last four games – which includes holding the Lakers to 82 points on Tuesday. This outstanding stretch came immediately after the Spurs surrendered an average of 110.8 points on 50.0 percent shooting in their previous five games.
“Hopefully it turns into a trend,” Manu Ginobili said. “We are very happy with the way we’ve played the last few games. Hopefully we just don’t relax. We’ll try to keep it up.”
The Spurs did a good job defensively against New York in sweeping last season’s series, limiting the Knicks (19-14) to 88 and 87 points in the two games. It could be a different story this time around, however, with Amare Stoudemire powering New York’s offense.
The Knicks, 1-9 against San Antonio since 2005-06, have the league’s top-ranked offense at 107.2 points – a 5.1-point improvement from last season – and Stoudemire is averaging 28.7 points in his last three games.
“They want to score points,” Duncan said of the Knicks. “They want to get up and down, and we’re going to have to try to control that.”
Stoudemire has also given the Spurs trouble from his days with Phoenix, averaging 32.7 points and 11.3 rebounds in three meetings last season.
The star forward had 26 points, including six of New York’s last seven, in Sunday’s 98-92 win over Indiana to lead six Knick players in double figures.
New York also came up with a strong defensive effort Sunday, limiting the Pacers to 15 fourth-quarter points in its third straight home victory.
“This was definitely huge,” Stoudemire said. “This was a big game for us. Indiana is right behind us as far as the playoff race, so it was important for us to get this win. We understand how big this game was for us and in the fourth quarter, we played with a sense of urgency and we were able to get the win.”
The victory came at a price, however, as starting forward Danilo Gallinari left in the fourth quarter with a sprained left knee after scoring 19 points. Gallinari, fourth on the Knicks with 15.3 points per game, is expected to miss two to three weeks.
Updated January 3, 2011
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