For much of his Tuesday night in Denver, Spurs swingman Danny Green felt like a lost traveler missing his GPS.
“I was in Strugglesville,” he said, “just trying to get to Pleasantville.”
In the 1998 film of the same name, one of the perks in Pleasantville is that every basketball shot finds the bottom of the net.
Save for a stray 3-pointer in the third quarter, Green experienced almost the polar opposite in the Spurs’ 112-106 loss to the Nuggets, finishing the night 1 for 10.
Green wasn’t the only Spurs player out of sorts in Denver, the last stop on what has only felt like a month-long road trip.
Having played 17 of their first 27 games on the road, and until Wednesday charting 12 consecutive days with either a game or a flight, the Spurs can only hope a return to San Antonio gets them a step closer to their preferred destination.
“It’s been a tough month-and-a-half,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Having a few days off will be huge.”
Over the next 10 days, the Spurs will play four games at home, none of them against teams above .500, the perfect antidote for a travel-drained team that has dropped four straight road games.
The Spurs did not practice Wednesday and will not practice today in the lead-up to Friday’s game against New Orleans, with Popovich opting to give his weary players time and space to recover.
None could use the break more than 36-year-old power forward Tim Duncan, who emptied his fuel tank in trying to pull the Spurs back from a 17-point, second-half deficit in the high altitude of Denver.
Duncan’s final line seemed lifted from one of his Most Valuable Player seasons — 31 points, 18 rebounds, five blocks, six assists. But he also topped 40 minutes for the third time this season and the first to come without the aid of overtime.
Afterward, Popovich said he briefly considered giving Duncan the night off against the Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back.
“I just show up to play,” Duncan said with a shrug, “and they play me however much they want to play me.”
Behind Duncan’s dominance and an unlikely jolt from reserve guard Patty Mills — who hit four of his career-high five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter — the Spurs crawled within three points of Denver in the final frame.
That, at least, allowed the Spurs to return to San Antonio proud of their effort, if not the outcome.
“We played it horn to horn,” said Duncan, whose team shot its way back into the game with 14 threes. “No matter what the score was, we were attacking and making plays. They just had too much momentum, and we had not enough time to get it back.”
The break in the schedule comes at an opportune time for the Spurs’ tired legs, if not their worn psyche.
With the recent slide, the Spurs have dropped to fourth in the Western Conference.
“I don’t know (if) it will be a relaxing time, coming off these losses,” Duncan said. “We’ve got to get back to feeling good about ourselves and playing well.”
The schedule, so rugged during the first month and a half of the season, should begin to help the Spurs now.
Of the Spurs’ next four opponents, only Dallas made the playoffs last season, and the Mavericks are still playing without injured All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki.
New Orleans and Toronto rank at or near the bottom of their respective conferences. The Spurs have beaten their other visitor on this homestand, the Houston Rockets, twice already.
“We have a long stretch at home to try and get it back,” point guard Tony Parker said. “It’s going to be huge to rejuvenate and get our energy back.”
For the Spurs, it appears the road back to Pleasantville begins at home.
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