Last week, the San Antonio Spurs were doing a good job changing the minds of those who had doubted their ability to win a second consecutive NBA title. Based on San Antonio's recent play, though, those minds may be changing again.
After losing for the fourth time in five games, the Spurs look to get back on track on Saturday when they visit the Philadelphia 76ers, who have done a better job of sustaining their turnaround.
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San Antonio (44-21) struggled for a significant portion of the season, going 11-13 from Dec. 11-Jan. 29, and failing to show the form that helped the Spurs win their fourth NBA championship in nine years last season.
Despite doubts about their ability to repeat as champs for the first time, the Spurs rejoined the league's elite by winning 15 of their next 16 games. But they had their season-high 11-game win streak snapped last Friday, and have gone on to lose three more games in the last week.
However, San Antonio isn't panicking, considering each of its four losses this month came against a team currently with a .600 winning percentage or better.
The Spurs overcame a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit with a 13-0 run on Friday night, but eventually lost 84-80 at Central Division-leading Detroit.
"It was a really good game of two good teams that went after each other," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
San Antonio was playing without starting forward Bruce Bowen, who had the NBA's longest active streak of games played snapped at 500 because of a league suspension. Bowen, whose streak began Feb. 28, 2002, was being disciplined for kicking New Orleans guard Chris Paul in San Antonio's 100-75 loss on Wednesday.
"The league is trying to send him a message more than anything," Popovich said. "The incident itself, I've watched a lot of times, and there was no real contact. It doesn't reach the level of other suspensions that I've seen, either in physicality or harm."
Bowen will return to play against the 76ers (32-34), who used a remarkable comeback in their last game to win for the 14th time in 18 games.
Philadelphia trailed by 18 with 11:08 left on Friday night, but rallied to beat Chicago 110-106. Andre Iguodala had 25 points and Rodney Carney scored 12 of his 18 in the final period as the Sixers climbed within two games of .500.
"I was thinking 'can we really come back?'" said Iguodala, averaging 21.0 points and shooting 48.7 percent in seven games this month. "Coach said if we can just get it down to 10, but the guys have a lot of heart, we cut it, got some stops and before you know it we were up."
With a win over Spurs, the Sixers can move within one game of .500 for the first time since they were 2-3 on Nov. 9.
Beating San Antonio, though, hasn't been easy for Philadelphia, which has dropped 27 of the last 35 games in the series, including six of seven.
The Sixers fell 89-82 in San Antonio on Jan. 14 despite 12 points and 20 rebounds from Samuel Dalembert and 21 points from Willie Green. Green, sidelined for two games with a lower back strain, expects to return against the Spurs.
San Antonio forward Tim Duncan had 18 points, 16 rebounds and six assists in that January win.
By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us
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