Is a three-game winning streak considered a real step forward?
It is if you are the San Antonio Spurs, who have forged their modest run of success for the first time since the first week of the season and have their sights set for even more when they host the Phoenix Suns on Friday in the AlamoCity.
The Spurs had to outlast the career debut of New Orleans rookie Zion Williamson on Wednesday to garner a 121-117 road victory. They did so thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge's 32 points and 14 rebounds and a balanced attack that saw four other San Antonio players in double-figure scoring.
Williamson, who missed the first 44 games of the season while rehabbing from arthroscopic knee surgery, scored 22 points in his NBA debut, including 17 consecutive Pelicans points to briefly give them the lead in the fourth quarter.
"I was really proud of our guys," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "We took a huge blow. We stayed the course and just played."
DeMar DeRozan added 20 points, Dejounte Murray scored 13, Derrick White had 12 and Bryn Forbes 11 for San Antonio. DeRozan has scored at least 20 points in 15 of 16 games.
The three-game surge is a snapshot of a series of successful photos for the Spurs over the past two months.
"We had to have more people play better, and I, as coaches, we decided on what sets and what things worked best for us, including combinations," Popovich said. "So, it's taken a while, but hopefully it will continue."
Since losing eight in a row from Nov. 9-22, the Spurs have gone 15-12, including 6-3 over their past nine games with wins coming over East powers Milwaukee, Boston, Toronto and Miami.
"Everyone kind of knows what they are doing," White said. "Guys are expanding their game and we are playing a little differently than we did at the start of the season."
The Suns head to South Texas on the heels of a 112-87 loss at home to Indiana on Wednesday. Phoenix was totally outplayed in the defeat, never leading and trailing by 25 points by midway through the third quarter.
The Suns missed their first 11 shots from 3-point range before Elie Okobo hit one late in the third. Phoenix finished just 4-for-20 from long distance.
Kelly Oubre Jr. led Phoenix with 17 points and nine rebounds, and Devin Booker added 16 points.
"It's not the way we want to play, and we've got to figure it out," Suns coach Monty Williams said. "Obviously, not a great output tonight for Suns basketball."
The Suns shot 30 of 84 (35.7 percent) from the field and were held under 90 points for only the second time this season.
Phoenix dropped both games of a two-game homestand after losing 120-118 to San Antonio on Monday.
"It's one of those nights in the NBA that didn't go our way," Suns guard Ricky Rubio said. "We didn't play good and we just have to respond."
Phoenix plays six of its next seven games on the road.
--Field Level Media