SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Spurs are winning easily, resting their stars and giving big minutes to role players.
In almost every way, it’s been their best start to a season.
Tim Duncan scored a season-high 18 points and the Spurs had eight other players in double figures, rolling to a 123-98 victory over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night that kept them unbeaten at home.
San Antonio (31-6) matched its best start in franchise history by winning its 21st straight home game to open the season.
"We’re going through the process of trying to get better every game," said Spurs forward David West, who had season highs in points (18) and rebounds (13). "Continue to protect our home court and continue to focus on our defence. Regardless of who plays, we’re trying to make sure that we attempt to make it perfect. Even though perfection is not a possibility, we’re still looking to achieve it."
San Antonio had a season-high point total in winning its 13th game by 20 points this season and eighth by 25 or more. The Spurs’ collective winning margin is the best after 37 games in NBA history. They are plus-526 against their opponents this season, which bests by 10 points the start by the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers.
"We’re eventually going to have a letdown," veteran reserve Manu Ginobili said. "We’re pros, we shouldn’t. We have to fight hard to take every minute, every possession seriously. Considering that the goal is not to win today, but to get better for when it counts in four months. We still have margin for improvement."
The Spurs set a season best with 68 points in the first half, enabling coach Gregg Popovich to sit Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to start the third quarter.
It was part of an easy night for San Antonio, which was without injured Tony Parker and sat LaMarcus Aldridge to rest for the first time this season.
"We’ve been really lucky and the front office has done a great job of bringing talent, good guys that want to win a championship," Ginobili said. "We can have the luxury of sitting Tony and LaMarcus and still win a good game."
San Antonio shot 61 per cent from the field and finished with 34 assists, one shy of a season high.
"It was good, but it wasn’t a fair fight," Popovich said. "Those guys played really hard. I actually think they executed their offence better than we executed ours, but they are just missing so many guys. It’s a real tribute to that coaching staff and those players that come out every night like this and play their butts off."
The Jazz were without Dante Exum, Rudy Gobert, Alec Burks and Derrick Favours.
Unlike the teams’ previous matchup on Dec. 14, when the Spurs never trailed in a 37-point victory, the Jazz led for 15 seconds after Trey Lyles made the game’s opening basket.
It was one of the few highlights for Utah (15-18), which dropped to 5-11 on the road.
"I would have liked to see us be better defensively and make it a little harder," coach Quin Snyder said. "But I think when you look back on it, there are a lot of things that you may want but maybe aren’t as realistic against the group we just played."
Leonard had 15 points and Ginobili added 14 while both played just 23 minutes. Kyle Anderson and Ray McCallum had season highs with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
"Collectively we’re going to play for 48 minutes, regardless of what the scoreboard says," Utah guard Trey Burke said. "We leave it all out there on the court. We’ve just got to continue to play that way whether we’re getting beat by 20 or if we’re up by 20. We have to have that mindset and focus to continue to play with a lot of energy."
Burke had 21 points and Gordon Hayward scored 18 on 6-for-16 shooting.
Jazz: Utah players have missed a total of 69 games this season due to injuries or illness. … Utah is 3-3 since losing Burks to a broken left leg. Burks was hurt on Dec. 26 in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Jazz are hopeful he will be back after the All-Star break in February after undergoing surgery in late December.
Spurs: Parker missed his second straight game with right hip soreness. … Green had two 3-pointers, giving him 662 with San Antonio to surpass Bruce Bowen (661) for second in franchise history. Ginobili is the Spurs’ career leader, raising his total to 1,311 with two 3s against Utah. … Aldridge missed the Spurs’ victories on Nov. 21 and Nov. 23 with a mild sprain of his left ankle. … San Antonio extended its franchise-record home winning streak to 30 straight regular-season games dating to last season.
Duncan shot 8 for 13 from the field and made his only two free throw attempts. He sat out the fourth quarter after playing 26 minutes.
San Antonio is only three games behind Golden State in the Western Conference despite the Warriors’ 33-2 start.
"I don’t think it helps or it hurts," Ginobili said. "It’s just what is and there is nothing we can do about it. They are playing great basketball. They’re fun to watch. And good for them. We are trying to do our best, to get better, to have the best record we can have. If Golden States finishes 80-2, it is what it is."
Jazz: At Houston on Thursday night.
Spurs: Host New York on Friday night.