SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs finished the regular season on a 10-game winning streak and tied for the best record in the NBA.
Showing that age wasn't slowing them down, the Spurs lost only five times this season when stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all played.
Coach Gregg Popovich surrounded them with a deep supporting cast and the Spurs locked up another No. 1 seed.
"You know what? It was a lot of uncertainty," Spurs forward Matt Bonner said to Toronto radio station The Fan 590 this week. "I wasn't really sure how we would fare if it was one week of training camp, one or two preseason games and then right into the season. We got off to a little bit of a slow start — we were 12-9 at one point — but since then we left for our rodeo monthlong road trip and we've been rolling ever since."
Since going on an 8-1 road trip in February, the Spurs (50-16) have won 23 of 26 to grab the top seed in the Western Conference from Oklahoma City.
The Spurs tied Chicago for the NBA's best record, but the Bulls hold the tiebreaker for home-court advantage if they meet in the NBA finals.
The Spurs open the playoffs Sunday against Utah (36-30).
Similar to last season, the Spurs are the top seed again in the Western Conference. But unlike a year ago, they're healthy.
Not only were the Spurs the NBA's only team this season to string together a double-digit winning streak, they did it three times. The latest came Thursday in a win at Golden State, extending their run to 10 games entering the playoffs.
"We weren't playing well at the end of last year. Manu getting injured, that hurt us, too," Duncan said. "We're playing well right now. We're getting a rhythm. To end the way as solid as we have, it's been good. It'll be great for us going in."
The winning streak kept going despite Popovich keeping his three stars in San Antonio while the bench finished off the regular season out West.
Duncan has held up in the compressed schedule in this lockout-shortened season. Parker averaged 18.3 points and a career-high 7.7 assists.
Then there's Ginobili. He missed nearly half the season and is having his worst offensive season since his second year (12.9 points), but his diminished production has been offset by the emergence of Danny Green in the starting lineup and 7-footer Tiago Splitter improving in his second year.
Duncan calls this Popovich's best coaching job in 15 years, a span that includes four championships and the highest winning percentage (.702) in any of the four major professional sports.
"Pop's been unbelievable this year. Not only the coaching job he's done, the rotation he's given us — he's kept us fresh," Duncan said. "He's found ways to rest us when he can. At the same time, I think our minutes are as low as anyone and we're still No. 1 in the West. All the credit to Pop in making a season that could have been very bad and very tough into something very manageable."
Utah coach Tyrone Corbin agreed.
"I mean, look at this year, the way he rested guys and they still won games and were able to come back and not miss a beat because they've been out of the lineup," Corbin said. "He has that luxury because he's been there for so long and guys have been together for so long."
AP Sports Writer Lynn DeBruin contributed from Salt Lake City.