San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and one of his former players, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, lead their teams into a Wednesday matchup at San Francisco with both clubs are coming off impressive wins.
The Spurs have won two in a row in decisive manner, including 125-104 at Portland on Monday to tip off a three-day, two-game Western swing.
While the Spurs were coasting past the Trail Blazers, the Warriors dug themselves a big hole on the road against the Los Angeles Lakers before rallying for an improbable 115-113 victory.
The Spurs have won five of their past six meetings with the Warriors, including both last season. That run has allowed Popovich to claim a winning record (10-9) against Kerr in their career regular-season matchups, although the pupil has dominated the postseason duels with eight wins in nine games in 2017 and 2018.
The two teamed as coach and player on Spurs championship teams in 1999 and 2003.
After missing the playoffs for the first time in a full season under Popovich last year, the Spurs have regained their winning form since Jan. 5, going 6-2. Five of the wins in that stretch have come on the road.
Patty Mills led the way in Portland, recording his 1,050th career 3-pointer as a member of the Spurs, with his 930th as a reserve, during a 21-point night.
The feat allowed Mills to pass former teammate Manu Ginobili (929) for most 3-pointers off the bench for the same team in NBA history.
DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray chipped in with 11 assists apiece for the Spurs, whose 33 as a team caught Popovich's eye afterward.
"Assists," he professed to the media, "translate into helping you win basketball games."
Kerr would agree. The Warriors compiled 31 assists in their win over the Lakers, making them 3-0 when they've totaled 30 or more this season.
Seeking to avoid what would have been their first three-game losing streak this season, the Warriors rallied from 19 down in the first quarter and 14 back in the fourth period to stun the defending champions.
The win was the first ever by an NBA club that trailed a team with LeBron James by double digits in the fourth quarter.
Stephen Curry provided the difference-making points with a late 3-pointer and finished with a game-high 26 points. It didn't take him long after the game to turn his attention to the Spurs.
"It is a step in the right direction," he said, "but we have to be able to put a couple of games together in a row. These are all learning lessons in terms of what it takes to beat the caliber of team that's at the top of the West."
The Wednesday game represents a homecoming for Mills, who attended college at Saint Mary's in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In 45 career matchups with the Warriors, his five with the most points have all come at Golden State, including a 34-pointer in April 2012 and a 21-pointer in Game 2 of the Spurs-Warriors matchup in the first round of the 2018 Western Conference playoffs.
--Field Level Media