The Denver Nuggets head to San Antonio on Wednesday, looking to begin a new winning streak after their 15-game run was snapped on Monday night in New Orleans. But for the hometown San Antonio Spurs, protecting their home court is of the utmost importance, as they begin one of the toughest three-game homestands in the NBA this season.
Given the rest of their schedule this week, losing is not an option.
After the Spurs face Denver, they'll take on the Los Angeles Clippers, who currently rank fourth in the Western Conference, on Friday. Then, on Sunday, they'll attempt to halt the Miami Heat's winning streak at 30—provided that the Chicago Bulls or New Orleans Hornets don't do it first.
For them to come out of the AT&T Arena with three victories, the Spurs need to start off strong, bringing their A-game against the Nuggets and relying on that momentum to pull them through.
To start, they'll need to put their 96-95 loss to the state-rival Houston Rockets on Sunday behind them by coming out of the gate hot. San Antonio was outscored in both the first and third quarters on Sunday, going into the fourth quarter against Houston down 74-67.
Playing against a team like Denver, which ranks third in the league with 105.7 points per game, means that the Spurs won't want to play from behind.
The other key struggle for the Spurs will be holding onto the ball. Against the Rockets, San Antonio turned the ball over 18 times. With an average of 15.9 opponent turnovers per game, the Nuggets rank third in the league in that category.
In short, all of the places where the Spurs struggled on Sunday are where Denver can take advantage of them on their home court on Wednesday.
If things don't go well for San Antonio, winning the next two games, even on their home court, will prove difficult. The Spurs haven't lost two consecutive games since December 17 and 18, and the two times they've lost twice in a row were both on the road.
But if they've already lost two in a row, going up against the Clippers—who beat the Spurs in their first two meetings, including once in San Antonio—and the Heat, who have taken the teams' only meeting thus far, could turn that into a four-game losing streak. If that happens, it would open the door for the Oklahoma City Thunder, 1.5 games behind the Spurs heading into Wednesday and gearing up to play two lightweights in the Wizards and Timberwolves, to take over the Western Conference lead.
But a win against Denver would go a long way towards eliminating that possibility. From there, San Antonio will have the momentum to beat the Clippers, who they destroyed 116-90 in Los Angeles in February. And having taken down two of the league's best teams, they'll be as prepared as anyone to make a run at ending Miami's epic winning streak.
For more from Christopher Leone, follow @christopherlion on Twitter.