Knicks try to halt home skid versus road-weary Spurs
For the second straight season, the San Antonio Spurs are encountering difficulties in getting wins on their annual Rodeo Road Trip.
On Sunday, they will encounter an opponent whose inability to win at home is on the verge of matching an NBA record.
The seventh stop of San Antonio's lengthy trip is a visit to the New York Knicks, whose 18-game skid on their home floor is one away from the league record set by the 1993-94 Dallas Mavericks.
The Spurs are 97-48 all-time on the trip which began in the 2002-03 season and concludes Monday in Brooklyn. Last year, the Spurs went 2-4 on the trip while allowing 106.1 points but this year's trip is seeing San Antonio struggle even more defensively.
The Spurs are 1-5 on the 8,424-mile trip and allowing 124.5 points per game. Opponents are shooting 51.9 percent and making 40.6 percent of their 3-point attempts.
The struggles on the trip are coming on the heels of a five-game win streak and a stretch of 13 wins in 18 games that put San Antonio 10 games over .500 at 32-22 following a 113-108 home win over New Orleans on Feb. 2.
The latest stop on the trip was the closest loss sustained by the Spurs and an emotional one for DeMar DeRozan in a 120-117 setback at Toronto.
"I thought it was a great game, good competitive game after a long break, you'd think you wouldn't get something like that," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after his team dropped to 11-20 on the road. "It would take everyone a while to get back in a groove, so I think maybe both teams started out a little slowly, but it was a really good competitive game all the way around."
On Friday, DeRozan made his return to Toronto and scored 23 points but also had the ball stolen by former Spur Kawhi Leonard, whose layup with 15 seconds remaining ultimately decided the game.
"I knew they were going to be aggressive, trying to make a play on the ball and then foul," DeRozan said. "I've just got to be more aware."
DeRozan also heard a loud cheer during a tribute video in the first timeout when he acknowledged fans with numerous waves.
"To come back here and get a reception like that is definitely humbling, beyond gratifying," DeRozan said. "I appreciate it."
DeRozan is averaging 23.4 points in the five games he has played on the trip and is playing in New York for the first time as a Spur.
San Antonio will be hoping for a rebound game from LaMarcus Aldridge, who tied a season low by scoring six points on Friday. Aldridge is probable to play against the Knicks as he battles an illness and is averaging 16.4 points and 9.6 rebounds in the five games he has appeared in during the trip.
Meanwhile, Knicks center DeAndre Jordan is doubtful with a sprained left ankle sustained in practice Saturday.
New York is winless at home since getting a double-overtime win over Milwaukee on Dec. 1 and is a league-worst 4-24 overall at home.
The Knicks matched the 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers for the league's second-longest home losing streak Friday when they committed 23 turnovers in a 115-104 loss to Minnesota.
"You gotta point that to lack of focus, lack of care of the basketball. You gotta value the basketball," Knicks rookie guard said Allonzo Trier. "Twenty-three turnovers, that's 23 times we didn't get to shoot the ball with a chance to get points. It's hard to win like that."
Trier and Damyean Dotson led the Knicks with 20 points apiece but the latest loss was a tough night for some of New York's other young players. Dennis Smith Jr. had a highlight-reel dunk in the opening quarter but was benched in the fourth and scored seven points while rookie Mitchell Robinson went scoreless in 13 minutes after reaching double figures in five of his previous six games.
"Sometimes it depends on how the young guys are messing up," Knicks coach David Fizdale said. "If their mistakes are mistakes I gotta show more discipline about, then the vets are gonna play more in that situation."
The Knicks are also 3-32 in their last 35 games since their last home victory.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 24, 2019