Surging Spurs face tough test from Warriors
San Antonio has rolled to season-high eight wins in a row, beating five teams that would be in the playoffs if they began today.
But the real test of how much the Spurs have improved over the past three weeks happens Monday night when they host Golden State.
The Spurs have won 10 straight at home and are a season-best 12 games over .500.
The Warriors are also heating up as the postseason approaches, beating Oklahoma City 110-88 on Saturday for their second consecutive win to start a four-game road trip.
DeMar DeRozan's 21 points led seven San Antonio players in double figures in the Spurs' 108-103 home victory over Portland on Saturday.
The Spurs trailed by four points entering the fourth quarter but took an 89-86 advantage on a 3-pointer by Davis Bertans with 5:55 to play.
San Antonio never trailed again, with Rudy Gay and Derrick White finishing with 13 points each, LaMarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills scoring 12 points apiece, and Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli both hitting for 11 points.
"We worked hard for 48 minutes," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the win. "We were up, we were down, but we just kept playing. They understand that it's a long night. Every NBA game is available to everybody.
"There are so many teams that are so similar that continue to work through those 48 (minutes) and can bear some fruit. So we stuck with it, played hard against a well-coached and well-executed team."
As it always seems with the Spurs, defense has been the catalyst for their recent surge. San Antonio leads the league in scoring defense during their winning streak, allowing 99.8 points per 100 possessions.
"It's been great," DeRozan said. "We got to keep it up, continue to be consistent. We got to be able to lean on our defensive effort every single night before our offense, and that's what we've been doing."
Golden State's win over the Thunder, which began with a 40-point first quarter for the Warriors and featured 33 points from Stephen Curry, allowed the two-time defending champions to clinch a playoff spot.
"Over the course of the game, and especially early in the first quarter, we imposed our will," Curry said. "We did our best to take care of the basketball so they didn't have easy transition opportunities. And we rebounded the ball well. So all things considered, really solid effort."
Klay Thompson scored 23 points and DeMarcus Cousins added 12 points.
The Warriors limited Oklahoma State to 18 assists and forced 16 turnovers, a performance that might have been the team's best defensive performance all season.
"It's coming at the right time," Golden State forward Draymond Green said. "To expect a team to do it in game 10 or 20, you want to, but sometimes it just doesn't happen that way."
Kevin Durant missed his second consecutive game with a sprained right ankle, but coach Steve Kerr said Monday that the Golden State star would return for Monday's game. In addition, Kerr said center Andrew Bogut will play his first game since re-signing with the Warriors on March 6 after playing in an Australian League since last April.
The Spurs and Warriors have split their two meetings this season, with both winning at home.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 18, 2019