Spurs-Nuggets Preview

Gregg Popovich called San Antonio's latest performance "pitiful," and visiting Denver may not be an ideal way for the Spurs to bounce back ahead of a daunting stretch.

With a six-game stretch against playoff teams from last season looming, San Antonio tries to shake out of its recent funk Sunday night against the Nuggets.

The Spurs (16-7) have followed an eight-game winning streak by splitting six, but those three losses have come against teams with losing records.

The latest, a 112-110 overtime defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, drew Popovich's ire.

"They had an edge, they were aggressive on both ends of the floor, they executed well and they definitely wanted the game more than we did," he said. "It seemed more important to them than to us. I thought our performance was pitiful."

That frustration isn't limited to the three-time coach of the year.

"It is frustrating. It's disappointing," guard Manu Ginobili said. "Looks like we need to be challenged badly to get the best out of our game.

"If we don't play hard and humble and do every little thing that is needed to get these wins, we're going to struggle. We're not that good that just because of being out there we're going to win or intimidate opponents. We gotta fight for it."

The schedule alone should provide some motivation for the reigning NBA champions. After visiting the Nuggets (10-13), the Spurs will face Portland twice, Memphis, Dallas, the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City.

"Everything is an opportunity," Ginobili said.

Prior to entering that stretch, though, San Antonio will try to slow down the Nuggets, who have won five of the last six at home while averaging 110.8 points.

Denver may be thrilled to be opening a four-game homestand after falling 108-96 at Houston on Saturday - its fifth loss in six games.

The Nuggets gave up 50 points in the paint to the Rockets while shooting 37.5 percent from the field and 7 for 28 from beyond the arc.

"We got dominated by their big guys inside," coach Brian Shaw said.

Shaw should be wary of that happening again since Tim Duncan has averaged 22.8 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in the last six matchups.

Duncan scored 20 points and the Spurs put up 64 in the paint in a 133-102 victory at Denver on March 28, their 12th win in the last 16 meetings and second straight at the Pepsi Center.

Kawhi Leonard had 14 points in that visit, but it's unclear if he'll be available this time after missing two games with a hand injury.

The Nuggets could use another strong performance from Ty Lawson, who had 19 points and 12 assists against the Rockets. Lawson is third in the league with 10.4 assists per game, but he's averaged just 11.2 points, 5.5 assists and shot 31.9 percent in his last six meetings with the Spurs.

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