In order for the New York Knicks to remain the only unbeaten team in the NBA, they’ll have to win in a place that has not been kind to them for nearly a decade and defeat a club that continues to amaze in regular-season games.
New York tries to end a nine-game losing streak in San Antonio on Thursday night as it takes on a Spurs squad looking to win for the 18th time in 19 non-playoff contests.
The Knicks opened a three-game trip with a 99-89 victory over Orlando on Tuesday night, improving to 5-0 for the first time since opening the 1993-94 season with seven consecutive wins en route to an appearance in the NBA finals.
New York’s success can be attributed to its solid play on both ends of the court, as it is among the league leaders with 103.4 points per game and an average of 87.8 allowed.
The Knicks, who have won each of their games by double digits, held the Magic to 13 points in the fourth quarter after taking a one-point lead into the period.
“Defense, we buckled down,” said forward Carmelo Anthony who scored a game-high 25 points. “We kind of slowed them down, kept them off the glass rebounding. Once we had a chance to rebound the basketball, get out and make some shots, we didn’t turn back from there.”
Starting guard Raymond Felton had 21 points and reserve JR Smith chipped in with 21 of his own on 9-of-14 shooting. Smith is second on the Knicks with a career-best average of 18.2 points, trailing Anthony’s 26.8 per game.
“It’s great. It’s a great feeling,” said Smith, who is 13 for 18 from 3-point range. “We want to keep it going.”
Doing so may be tough in San Antonio, where New York has averaged 88.6 points since a 105-97 win March 18, 2003. Plus, the Spurs have jumped out to a 7-1 start after ending the 2011-12 regular season on a 10-game win streak and winning their first 10 in the playoffs before losing four straight to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals.
Including playoffs, San Antonio has won 22 of 24 on its own court.
“Road wins are tough to get, so you gotta really be locked in and focused as a unit,” said coach Mike Woodson, whose Knicks are in a stretch of playing six of seven away from home. “… The schedule is what it is. We can’t run from it.”
The Spurs concluded a 3-1 trip Tuesday night with an 84-82 victory over the Lakers as Danny Green hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 9.3 seconds left.
San Antonio is also one of the better defensive teams in the NBA, holding opponents to 92.6 points per game, and it helped against Los Angeles as the Spurs shot a season-low 38.9 percent.
“That’s a great win, we were not playing very well, missed a lot of wide-open shots,” said point guard Tony Parker who scored a team-high 19 points while shooting 8 for 18. “… (Thursday) is going to be a great game, another one.”
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