The Boston Celtics can use the San Antonio Spurs as role models while chasing their first NBA title in more than two decades.
But as the NBA leaders embark on perhaps their toughest road stretch of the season, they'll be trying to do anything but follow San Antonio's lead.
The Celtics seek their sixth consecutive road win on Monday night against the defending champion Spurs, who have lost three straight.
Boston (53-12) has already clinched the Atlantic Division and has a 4 1/2-game lead atop the NBA, but the Celtics haven't been to the NBA Finals since 1987. A win over the Spurs - who've won four NBA titles in the last nine seasons - would help solidify Boston's status as a title contender.
The rest of the road trip is just as challenging. The swing, which started with a 99-77 win over Milwaukee on Saturday, concludes with four games in six days against Western Conference contenders. Boston plays at Houston - which has won 22 straight - on Tuesday before traveling to Dallas and New Orleans.
"These are going to be playoff-style basketball games," Celtics forward Kevin Garnett said. "We have to be ready. We've got a long road trip, so it's good to get this first one and try to carry it on."
The Spurs (44-22) have won seven in a row at home, but they didn't respond well during a recent stretch, as they've dropped five of their last six - all on the road. They're looking to avoid their first four-game skid overall since early in the 2003-04 season.
San Antonio lost 103-96 at Philadelphia on Saturday despite 27 points from point guard Tony Parker. The Spurs trailed throughout as they allowed 100 or more points for the third time in the last four games.
"We could never get a run going," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "They didn't miss many shots and every time we got within seven, they hit a big shot or we turned over the ball."
San Antonio's defense, which is third in the NBA allowing 91.3 points per game, has allowed an average of 98.8 points in the last six.
The Celtics, meanwhile, have won five straight on the road and 11 of 12 overall after blowing out the Bucks. They won that game without guard Ray Allen, who was out with a foot injury. His status is uncertain for Monday's game.
Garnett had 19 points and reserve guard Eddie House added 17 on 7-of-11 shooting as the Celtics rebounded from a 110-92 home loss to Utah on Friday. The Jazz are the only Celtics opponent in the last eight games to score more than 93 points.
"We really buckled in on the defensive end," Boston forward Paul Pierce said. "I knew we weren't going to come out flat. It was a good win in a back-to-back, especially after the way we played (Friday)."
The Celtics' 91-85 win at San Antonio exactly one year ago Monday ended their 18-game losing streak to the Spurs and a 15-game skid in San Antonio.
Boston has now won two straight against the Spurs after a 98-90 home win on Feb. 10. Pierce scored 35 in that game, as the Celtics were without Garnett and the Spurs were without Parker due to injuries.
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