While their chances of taking over the top spot in the Western Conference are slim, the San Antonio Spurs aren't overlooking the value of the No. 2 seed.
The Spurs try for their fifth win in six games Monday night when they face an Oklahoma City Thunder team that's seeking its fourth consecutive victory at home.
San Antonio (44-21) is well behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the No. 1 seed in the conference, but increased its lead over Houston for the second spot to 2 1/2 games with Saturday's 88-85 road win over the Rockets.
"Overall, that was a big win for us," point guard Tony Parker said. "Definitely a playoff atmosphere, playoff intensity. We're battling to try to keep that second place and I think it's huge for us to have that home-court advantage, at least until the conference finals."
Parker scored the Spurs' final nine points and finished with 28 for the Southwest Division leaders, who improved to 35-4 when leading entering the fourth quarter.
Tim Duncan posted his fourth consecutive double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. He also had four assists, three coming on Parker's final three field goals.
"They were pressuring me, and I told TD, 'Take a look on the back door,'" Parker said.
Parker, averaging 26.7 points and 7.3 assists in his last six games, had 22 points and seven assists in a 109-104 win over Oklahoma City on Dec. 14.
Duncan had 20 points and 12 rebounds in that victory as the Spurs hung on after nearly letting a 26-point first-half lead slip away.
San Antonio remains one of the league's top defensive teams, allowing 93.4 points per game. In their last 17 games, the Spurs have given up more than 100 points four times.
They'll be facing an Oklahoma City club that hasn't reached 100 in its last eight contests, averaging 94.4 points during that stretch.
The Thunder, however, have leading scorer Kevin Durant back in the lineup after the second-year forward missed seven games from Feb. 28-March 11 with a sprained right ankle. Durant made his return Saturday, going 9-of-20 from the field and scoring 22 points in a 106-95 loss at Phoenix.
"I felt good," said Durant, scoring 25.9 points per game. "I was a little winded at first, but when I got my second wind, I was all right."
Durant had 28 points and 13 rebounds in the Dec. 14 loss in San Antonio.
Oklahoma City (18-48) has dropped two in a row overall, but returns to the Ford Center where it's won a season-best three straight. The Thunder, though, will likely have to do a better job taking care of the ball against the Spurs.
"We turned it over just too many times ... That's not going to get it done on the road," interim coach Scott Brooks said after his team had 22 turnovers versus the Suns.
The Thunder are committing an NBA-worst 16.7 turnovers per game.
Jeff Green recorded his 12th double-double of 2008-09 with 17 points and 10 boards against Phoenix. He scored a season-high 33 points in the Thunder's first game versus San Antonio this season.
The Spurs' Gregg Popovich will become the 24th coach in league history to reach 1,000 games Monday. He's 676-323 since taking over for the fired Bob Hill 18 games into the 1996-97 season.
Spurs should have a fairly easy win
I think he's going to be a star. And as time goes on, he'll be the face of the Spurs, I think.--- Coach Pop on Leonard
NBA.com - Referee Assignments
Mar 16, 2009
San Antonio @ Oklahoma City--K. Mauer; D. Collins; D. Guthrie
In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.
We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.
---Winston Churchill (1903)
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