The San Antonio Spurs head home after their most successful road trip of the season to square off against the struggling New York Knicks on Tuesday.
The game is the second of a road-home back-to-back set for the Spurs, who head to Texas after a 108-104 loss in Phoenix on Monday that snapped a season-best, four-game winning streak.
The defeat came after road wins over the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors gave San Antonio some needed momentum for the upcoming stretch of five games, all at home, in eight days.
San Antonio trailed by 16 points in the third quarter but mounted a comeback led by its reserves over the first half of the final period and eventually tied the game at 88. However, the Spurs could never regain the lead as Phoenix made the plays down the stretch.
“I’m proud of our guys,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said after the loss. “The second group helped us get back in it. We learned some stuff, we got better tonight. I’m really proud of their effort.”
Dejounte Murray led San Antonio with 17 points and 14 assists. He recorded his seventh consecutive double-double, the longest such streak for the Spurs since Tim Duncan had a seven-game run in January 2009 and longest such streak for a guard in team history.
Bryn Forbes scored 15 points, Doug McDermott and Jakob Poeltl contributed 14 apiece, Keldon Johnson put up 13 points and Derrick White had 12 for San Antonio.
The Spurs fell by five points or fewer for the sixth time this season. Only the Indiana Pacers, with eight such setbacks, have dropped more close games.
The Knicks travel to San Antonio on the heels of a 113-99 home loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday. New York has dropped three straight and four of its past five games to fall under .500 for the first time this season.
Julius Randle led the Knicks with 24 points and eight assists against the Nuggets. Evan Fournier added 15 points, RJ Barrett hit for 13 and Alec Burks and Derrick Rose scored 11 apiece for New York.
Part of the problem for the Knicks has been a lack of attention on defense. After finishing fourth in defensive rating last season, New York is 22nd this season.
“How we were last year, how we have to be this year as well, we have to win games with our defense,” Randle said. “Offensively, we have to understand that some nights it’s going to be going, some nights it’s not. But how we’re going to win is defense and then rebounding.”
The Knicks never led against Denver but cut their deficit to six points in the third quarter before the Nuggets regained their stride. Denver’s lead grew to 30 points in the final period.
“We’ve got to … really take a long look in the mirror and see how we’re going to change it,” Randle said. “We know we can do it. We’ve done it. We’re in a funk right now. It’s hard, it’s tough, it’s not fun. But we have the ability and the power to change it.”