The San Antonio Spurs are up to their old tricks again, taking their foot off the gas while simultaneously still being good enough to cruise past opponents.
The Spurs (44-13) are three games ahead of the Thunder (40-15) for the best record in the NBA, yet it seems more like three miles.
After concluding its nine-game rodeo road trip Sunday night at Phoenix, San Antonio will have 17 home games remaining in the regular season and just seven road games, four of which come on the back end of a back-to-back.
After playing just two home games in February, the Spurs are about to play just two road games in March.
At a time in the schedule when San Antonio should have dipped, instead it has risen — again. It was around this time when OKC was expected to have a three-game lead on the Spurs, not vice versa.
San Antonio is 22-2 (.917) at home and 22-10 (.688) on the road. The next-best road record belongs to the Los Angeles Clippers at 18-12 (.600) and the Thunder at 16-11 (.593).
The Spurs have assembled this shiny mark while occasionally resting their Hall of Fame 30-somethings.
Imagine the hype that would surround this team if it hailed from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia or Boston:
*San Antonio would be viewed as the third-best franchise in NBA history behind the Celtics or Lakers, which it very well might be.
*Spurs point guard Tony Parker likely would be viewed as the front-runner for this year's Most Valuable Player, which he very well might be.
*Gregg Popovich would be viewed as an overwhelming choice for Coach of the Year — again.
Popovich is pumping up Parker more than ever, and with good reason.
“I think he's played probably better than any point guard in the league if you want to be totally frank about the whole deal,” Popovich said last month. “It's hard to pick somebody who's had a better year than he's had.”
In January, for the first time in his 12-year career, the 30-year-old Parker was named Western Conference Player of the Month. He's played even better in February, averaging 26.6 points while shooting 55.2 percent from the field and 90.0 percent from the free-throw line, with 8.4 assists and 4.0 rebounds.
It's a bit early to concede San Antonio the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
Then again, probably not.
*This year's Spurs are 2-1 without point guard Tony Parker, 8-2 without power forward Tim Duncan and 10-3 without shooting guard Manu Ginobili.
*So far this season, San Antonio has three five-game winning streaks, a seven-game winning streak and an 11-game winning streak.
*Before Friday night's overtime loss at Golden State, the Spurs had won 16 of their last 17 and 25 of their last 29.
*San Antonio is 4-0 all-time in the NBA Finals — winning titles in the 1998-99, 2002-03, 2004-05; 2006-07 seasons — all under coach Gregg Popovich.
*In the last 15 seasons, the Spurs have won nine division titles and have never finished worse than second.
*In the last 23 seasons, they have won 13 division titles and finished no lower than second 22 times.
*San Antonio has been to the playoffs 15 straight seasons and 22 of the last 23.
*Since 1989-90, the Spurs easily have the NBA's best regular-season winning percentage at .674. The Los Angeles Lakers are second at .632.
On the morning of Nov. 29, 2012, with his team playing its sixth road game in nine days, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich sent Parker, Duncan, Ginobili and starting guard Danny Green home on a plane before the Spurs faced the world champion Heat that same night in Miami.
With four players resting at home, Popovich had the nine remaining players all play at least 15 minutes and still nearly won the game. The Spurs led 92-85 with 4:48 left and wound up losing 105-100.
The Spurs were fined $250,000 for resting four players without informing the Heat, media or league office in a “timely” fashion.