It’s about making sure teams know who the best team around is with the playoffs so close. Tim Duncan knew it was on him, with the Denver Nuggets focusing so strongly on Tony Parker. So he came up with another impressive, almost vintage-like performance on both ends of the floor to keep the San Antonio Spurs on top of the Western conference.

There’s this exam-approach for Gregg Popovich on the final days of the season, feeling it’s a good thing for the Spurs to face the best opponents before they head into the playoffs, just to make sure they really are good enough to compete and more importantly, beat the best teams out there.

The schedule that we have is something that should be embraced and considered a great opportunity. because it’s like taking a final exam every day or most days. To get ready for the playoffs, understanding the physicality, aggressiveness and competitiveness that’s necessary night after night in the playoffs.

Duncan finished with 23 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks as the Spurs beat the Nuggets 100-99, as the entire stating lineup finished in double figures, while the bench, not the strongest unit in the NBA anymore as long as Manu Ginobili isn’t as reliable as in the past when it comes to his ability on offense (9 points this time), struggled to make a difference. So did Parker, finishing with 18 points and 11 assists, but suffered from a defense that focused completely on him, pushing him to a 6-16 from the field. Danny Green, as a result, enjoyed a lot of open looks, scoring 20 points on 6-8 from beyond the arc.

In a game that had 20 game changes, you expect it to go down to the wire. The Nuggets were the better team in the final quarter, winning it 24-17. Tim Duncan made an 18-footer with 10 seconds left on the clock, and some excellent defense from Danny Green on Danilo Gallinari forced Andre Miller to take a tough shot that didn’t make it. Having Ty Lawson on an awful 1-7, 2 point game back from his injury didn’t really help in the final minutes as well.

So are the Spurs ready? Ready as they’ll ever be. They do need Ginobili and the rest of the bench guys, like Boris Diaw, in better shape. They need Tony Parker to get the rust off pretty quickly. But they have plenty of players to trust in besides Tim Duncan, and for a change it’s happening on both ends of the floor.

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