The San Antonio Spurs aren’t necessarily focused on it, but a lengthy win streak has given them an opportunity to take over sole possession of first place in the Western Conference.
A season high-tying 11th consecutive victory could help the Spurs do just that. At the very least, San Antonio will try to wrap up a 15th straight playoff berth as it begins a home-and-home set with the Utah Jazz on Sunday night.
San Antonio (39-14) moved percentage points ahead of Oklahoma City atop the conference by cruising to a 128-103 victory over visiting New Orleans on Friday. A 72-point first half allowed the Spurs to get 13 players in the game and have each of their starters play 22 minutes or fewer.
Tim Duncan led the way with 19 points during his team’s best shooting performance of the season (60.7 percent). Each San Antonio player scored at least five points and the reserves totaled 82, the most by any team since Orlando on Jan. 3, 2000.
Another such performance against the Jazz (29-27) could help the Spurs overtake the Thunder in the West. Oklahoma City, losers of three in a row, host Toronto on Sunday night.
“At this point of the season, we haven’t been playing for that. We’ve just been playing game to game, trying to get better as a team. But it’s great to be in that situation,” Duncan said.
San Antonio, seeking to match its 11-game win streak from Jan. 30-Feb. 20, has won five in a row over Utah and is 25-2 in the last 27 home matchups, including three wins during the 2007 playoffs.
The Spurs prevailed 104-89 during the most recent game at the AT&T Center on Dec. 31 as Manu Ginobili scored 14 of his team-best 23 points in the second quarter and gave coach Gregg Popovich his 800th career win.
San Antonio had a more difficult time during a visit to the Jazz on Feb. 20. Richard Jefferson hit a key 3-pointer with 6.5 seconds left to give the Spurs a 106-102 victory.
“We’ve just got to keep winning and playing well together,” Ginobili said.
Utah enters this game having won two of three. After missing one game with a sprained left ankle, Devin Harris scored a season-high 28 points in a 104-98 win over visiting Golden State on Friday.
Al Jefferson had a team-best 30 points along with 11 rebounds and a season-best five blocks despite sitting out 4 1/2 minutes in the third quarter due to an abdominal strain.
Paul Millsap and C.J. Miles also played while dealing with illness, keeping ninth-place Utah in striking distance for the West’s final playoff berths.
“This time of year, what we are fighting for, you don’t have time to complain about anything,” Al Jefferson said.
While enduring any aches, Jefferson will try to improve on his 21.5-point average in the last four games against San Antonio, owners of the NBA’s longest active streak of postseason berths. He’s scored 20.4 points per game on 52.7 percent shooting over his last eight visits to the AT&T Center.
The teams play again Monday night in Salt Lake City.