SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Spurs have locked up another No. 1 seed.
Now comes trying not to blow it again.
Tim Duncan scored 18 points in what might have been his last game before the playoffs start this weekend, now that the Spurs have clinched the top spot in the Western Conference after beating the Portland Trail Blazers 124-89 on Monday.
The Spurs won their eighth straight but won’t care about the streak or little else with two now-meaningless regular-season games remaining. All that will matter is their Big Three reaching the postseason fully healthy for the first time since 2008, and that likely means an easy week ahead for Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
“It’s great to be in that situation, but as we showed last year, someone can sneak up and take you out easily,” Duncan said. “Hopefully we get a much better effort this year and do a much better job, and we stay away from those injuries.”
After cruising to the No. 1 spot last season against all expectations, the Spurs bowed out as just the fourth top seed to lose in the first round. This latest one – their sixth top seed in the Duncan era – is somehow even more surprising. Two days before Duncan turns 36, the NBA’s standard-bearers beat out the young Oklahoma City Thunder for ultimate home-court advantage.
Wesley Matthews had 24 points for the Trail Blazers, who lost their sixth straight and have one game left in a tumultuous season.AROUND THE LEAGUE
■ SIXERS CLINCH PLAYOFF SPOT - At Newark, N.J., Philadelphia secured the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference and spoiled the Nets’ final game in New Jersey with a 105-87 victory.
The win moved Philadelphia (34-30) into a tie with the New York Knicks for the No. 7 seed, with two games remaining in the regular season.
The Nets will move into a new arena in Brooklyn next season.
■ BOBCATS EYE FUTILITY MARK – At Washington, John Wall had 16 points and 14 assists, Nene scored 18 points, and Jan Vesely had 16 points on 8-for-8 shooting as the Wizards beat Charlotte 101-73, the Bobcats’ 21st straight loss.
If Charlotte (7-57) loses its final two games, it will finish with the worst winning percentage in NBA history.
■ GRIZZLIES SEEK NO. 4 SEED – At Memphis, Tenn., Marreese Speights had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Marc Gasol also scored 17 points as the Grizzlies won their fifth straight, 109-101 over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Memphis pulled a half game behind the Los Angeles Clippers for fourth place in the Western Conference.