San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich treats the stretch run of the regular season like a series of final exams for his team.
The Spurs passed their latest — just barely.
Tim Duncan had 23 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 blocks and the host Spurs escaped with a 100-99 win over Denver Wednesday night when Nuggets veteran guard Andre Miller missed a short jumper at the buzzer.
‘‘The schedule that we have is something that should be embraced and considered a great opportunity,’’ Popovich said, ‘‘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.’’
Denver dished out a heavy dose of that playoff intensity.
Danny Green added 20 points and Tony Parker had 18 points and 11 assists for the Spurs, who remained 1½ games ahead of Oklahoma City in the race for the top spot in the Western Conference. Kawhi Leonard had 11 points and Tiago Splitter 10.
JaVale McGee had 21 points and 11 rebounds, Wilson Chandler scored 15 points, and Miller 14 for the Nuggets, whose reserves outscored their Spurs counterparts, 59-18.
‘‘I'm pretty sure the film will show it was a good loss, maybe the best loss of the year,’’ Nuggets coach George Karl said. ‘‘We did a lot of great stuff.’’
Hawks 107, Raptors 88 — Al Horford scored 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, Jeff Teague had 24 points and 13 assists, and visiting Atlanta clinched a playoff berth for the sixth straight season.
Josh Smith added 19 points for the Hawks, who used a 16-0 run midway through the fourth to win for the 13th time in the last 15 meetings against Toronto. Horford reached double digits for the 31st consecutive game.
Knicks 108, Grizzlies 101 — J.R. Smith scored 35 points, his second straight 30-point game, and New York withstood a furious rally to win at Madison Square Garden.
Carmelo Anthony added 22 points as the Knicks tied a season high with their sixth straight win.
Clippers 105, Hornets 91 — Blake Griffin scored 19 points, Chris Paul added 16 points and nine assists, and visiting Los Angeles pulled ahead of Denver for the third-best record in the Western Conference.
Chauncey Billups briefly returned from a right groin strain to score 11 points before leaving the game with the same injury.
Eric Gordon scored 24 and Anthony Davis had 19 points and nine rebounds for New Orleans, which had its three-game winning streak snapped.
Thunder 103, Wizards 80 — Russell Westbrook scored 21 points and Kevin Durant added 20 to lift host Oklahoma City. John Wall, coming off 47 points in a win over Memphis, overcame 3-of-18 shooting to finish with 18 points and 12 assists for Washington.
Lakers 120, Timberwolves 117 — Kobe Bryant had 31 points and seven assists in his first game at small forward, filling in for the injured Metta World Peace, to lead visiting Los Angeles to its 22d straight win over the Timberwolves. Dwight Howard added 25 points, 16 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 5 steals for the Lakers.
Jazz 103, Suns 88 — Al Jefferson and Gordon Hayward scored 25 points apiece and host Utah remained a game behind the eighth-place Lakers in the Western Conference playoff battle.
Pacers 100, Rockets 91 — Roy Hibbert scored a season-high 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Lance Stephenson added a season-high 21 points to lead visiting Indiana.
The Pacers never trailed and led by as many as 19 points.
Bobcats 114, Magic 108 — Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker each scored 34 points, and host Charlotte handed injury-riddled Orlando its eighth straight loss in a matchup of the NBA’s worst teams.
The Magic came in having lost 29 of their last 33 games, while the Bobcats had dropped 22 of their previous 27.
Nets 111, Blazers 93 — Brook Lopez scored 28 points and Reggie Evans grabbed a career-high 26 rebounds and matched his career high with 22 points as Brooklyn won in Portland, the Nets’ franchise-best 20th road win of the season.
Kings 105, Warriors 98 — Isaiah Thomas had 31 points and seven assists as Sacramento enjoyed its first road win against a team with a winning record all season.
76ers 100, Bucks 92 — Spencer Hawes had 15 points and a career-high 17 rebounds to help Philadelphia post a home victory.