Winning is synonymous with the San Antonio Spurs, so much so that after garnering victories in 19 of their first 24 games, they still expect to play better. They'll take that goal onto the hardwood on Wednesday against the visiting Boston Celtics at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.
The Spurs head into the contest against Boston off their best overall performance of the season, a 130-101 destruction of the Brooklyn Nets in which San Antonio led by at least 13 points over the final 2 1/2 quarters. The Spurs established season-highs for points in a game, points in a quarter (41, in the first), assists (38) and 3-point baskets 14 (out of 26 attempted).
Can a team that's 19-5 turn a corner and play even better? Guard Manu Ginobili said the Spurs have not yet touched on their potential.
That's not a good sign for Boston, which has lost 10 straight to San Antonio dating to the 2010-11 campaign.
"(The win over the Nets) was a great step ahead; now we have to make sure we continue to improve and learn from these first 24 games," Ginobili said. "You won't find anyone in this locker room who's satisfied with the way we are playing. We all know we can do so much better. We won't look at our record or the success we've had."
It was just the 11th time all season that the Spurs' preferred starting five -- Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge at forward, Tony Parker and Danny Green at guard and Pau Gasol at center -- played together.
"The fun is when everyone feels involved," Ginobili said. "A lot of times we talk about how good things start for us with our defense, but over the past 15 games or so we've struggled some on offense and that's been what's slowing us down."
Leonard scored 30 points in 27 minutes in the win over the Nets, the 19th time this season and fifth straight game that Leonard led the Spurs in scoring.
Boston hits the Alamo City off back-to-back losses, at home to Toronto on Dec. 9 and at Oklahoma City on Sunday, a 99-96 setback in which the Celtics led in the final minutes but let it get away.
"That's a frustrating loss, because we played really hard on the defensive end for most of the night," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of loss against the Thunder. "We had critical turnovers throughout the game. We screwed up a few coverages throughout the course of the night, but not very many."
The Celtics (13-11) did play enough defense to stop Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook's triple-double streak at seven games.
"It is frustrating, but we need to look at this film, have a good practice, and get focused," Celtics center Al Horford said. "No one's going to feel bad for us. We need to stay together. And we will."
Boston has five players who average double-figures in scoring, led by guard Isaiah Thomas' 26.0 points per contest. Guard Avery Bradley scores 17.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, 6.3 of those on the defensive end.
The Celtics spent the past two days in San Antonio, where they had their first taped full practice in months. It was Boston only consecutive off days on the road in this season's schedule.
San Antonio won the first matchup with the Celtics 109-103 on Nov. 25 in Boston. Leonard led the Spurs with a game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds and guard Patty Mills added 19 points off the bench in that win.