Spurs (11-3) vs. Charlotte Hornets (8-5)
Tipoff: 7 p.m., Wednesday, Spectrum Center, Charlotte, N.C.
Spurs’ last game: Beat Dallas 96-91, Monday, AT&T Center
Hornets’ last game: Lost to Memphis 105-90, Monday, Charlotte
Notable: Spurs starting three-game, four-day road trip.
SAN ANTONIO – Coming off a performance coach Gregg Popovich described as “pathetic,” the Spurs are back on the road, where they are undefeated through the first month of the season.
The Silver and Black (7-0) and Los Angeles Clippers (6-0) are the only NBA teams still unbeaten on the road. But playing well at home consistently has been another issue for the Spurs.
Popovich vented to the media Monday night after the Silver and Black edged injury-depleted Dallas 96-91 at the AT&T Center, where they lost only once game the entire 2015-16 regular season.
Although the Spurs played without starters Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge, who were given the night off by Popovich, they struggled to beat a Mavericks team that was missing four injured players, including future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki.
Dallas trailed only 92-91 before the Silver and Black secured the hard-fought victory with four free throws in the final 15 seconds.
“If there is such a thing as an ugly win, that’s probably it,” said guard Patty Mills, who led the Spurs’ bench with 17 points.
Popovich was a bit harsher in his assessment of the game.
“I thought we showed a lack of humility, a lack of respect for the opponent, a very pathetic performance at both ends of the court, both in execution and in grunt, in fiber, in desire,” Popovich said.
Then for good measure, Popovich added this: The Mavs deserved to win the game.
Backup forward/center David Lee drew chuckles from the media with his reply to a question about whether Popovich was as terse with his players as he was with the media after the game.
“I think Pop’s pretty consistent,” Lee deadpanned. “I don’t think he was real thrilled with us tonight, either, and let us know about that after the game.”
The Spurs get back at it Wednesday night, starting a three-game, four-day road trip in Charlotte. They play Boston at noon Friday and Washington on Saturday night. Charlotte (8-5) owns the third-best record in the Eastern Conference, but has lost its last two.
Forward/center Pau Gasol, a six-time All-Star who won two NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, likes the way Popovich holds the Spurs to a high standard – win or lose.
“Most coaches are happy just to win,” Gasol said. “A win is a win. They’re just happy. Next day you come and clean up a couple of things and you move on. I love the attention to detail. I love not settling, for good enough. If we want to win a championship, we’re going to have to tighten up. We’re going to have to be better for more minutes on the floor.
“One of the main lessons to be learned in this league and in this life is never to let your guard down. You always have to be on top of your game. No matter who you face, you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game. You’ve got to be ready, you’ve got approach the game the same way regardless.”
San Antonio is riding a six-game winning streak that started at home against Detroit on Nov. 11. The victory stopped a three-game skid at the AT&T Center for the Spurs, who hadn’t dropped three in a row on their floor since December 2014.
Mills blamed the team’s subpar performance against Dallas on a lack of energy and effort.
“There’s no excuse,” Mills said. “It’s a chance to play an NBA game. A lot of people don’t get to do that. We’re very fortunate and have to make the most of it. Credit to them. They obviously played very hard.
“When you’ve got guys that don’t play their full squad and got guys that have a chance to come in and play, they lace them up. And that’s what they did tonight. They were ready to play and wanted to kick our backsides on our home floor.”
Lee, who scored 12 points and gave the Spurs a lift with his hustle, was asked why he thinks the team has played better on the road than at home early in the season.
“Sometimes it just works out that way,” Lee said. “I’ll still prefer us being at home than being on the road any time. Tonight we’re without Tony and LaMarcus, two of the guys that really get us in rhythm. We go to LaMarcus a lot of times when we need a good shot in the post, and Tony in pick-and-roll. I just think that we’ve had a couple of games we haven’t played our best at home, but I don’t think that’s any sort of trend.”
Next up for Spurs: at Boston, noon, Friday
(© 2016 KENS)