Shabazz Muhammad #15 of the Minnesota Timberwolves drives to the basket against Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs during the game at Target Center in Minneapolis. Credit: Jordan Johnson / Getty Images

The Spurs continue to make history on the road, but is anyone outside South Texas paying attention?

One night after a stirring comeback win in Milwaukee, which extended the Spurs’ perfect road start to 12-0, was relegated to NBA afterthought by Klay Thompson’s 60-point game for the Golden State Warriors and Russell Westbrook’s sixth consecutive triple-double for the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Spurs made the league sit up and take notice.

Their 105-91 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center pulled them into a tie with the 1969-70 New York Knicks for the second-best road start in league history, 13-0. On the list of the NBA’s best road starts, they now trail only last season’s Warriors, who opened with 14 straight road wins on their way to a 28-0 start that propelled them to the league’s all-time best record, 73-9.

There was another amazing individual performance in the league on Tuesday, but Washington Wizards guard John Wall’s 52 points came in a loss to the Orlando Magic, diminishing his impact.

Lo and behold, and in spite of Wall’s 52-points, the Spurs’ 13th straight road win made them the lead story on the Tuesday version of  NBA-TV’s Game Night show that highlights each day’s play.

The Spurs’ dedication to team basketball minimizes opportunities for their players to even approach 50 points, but on Tuesday Kawhi Leonard produced his sixth game this season with at least 30 points. After a scoreless first quarter, he made 11-of-14 shots and scored 31 points in the final three periods, leading the Spurs in scoring for the 16th time in 22 games.

The Spurs actually prefer flying under the NBA radar, so there have been no complaints about disrespect emanating from the visitors’ locker room as their road romp has reached historic levels. Besides, their opponents understand the significance of their amazing start.

“To do what they’re doing, to credit them and what they’ve done – 18-4 – and (they) haven’t lost on the road yet … The thing I respect is, they play their game,” Timberwolves Coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters in Minneapolis after the game. “No matter what, they just keep playing their game.”

“No matter what” on Tuesday meant playing without starting point guard Tony Parker and key reserve Manu Ginobili. Parker sat out after taking another blow to his already bruised left knee. Ginobili suited up, but Gregg Popovich made it clear before tipoff that he had no intention of letting him play.

Parker’s absence was especially troubling, as the club had assigned rookie point guard Dejounte Murray to their NBA D-League team in Austin, leaving Patty Mills and rookie Nico Laprovittola as the only true point guards available.

As he had done on two previous occasions when Parker was unavailable this season, Popovich gave Laprovittola the start. The 25-year-old from Buenos Aires made 4-of-5 shots, 2-of-3 from 3-point range, and scored 10 points.

“We knew that Tony was going to miss some games,” Popovich said, “and to have another person that has the courage and the experience to play that position is important.”

Laprovittola’s performance merited his first on-air postgame interview with FoxSports Southwest broadcasters Bill Land and Sean Elliott. He acquitted himself well in a second language that remains a study in progress as he explained his adjustment to a role that changes game to game.

“Really, it’s very hard,” he said. “But at the very moment Pop says, ‘Nico, you are on,’ or maybe you watch the game behind the bench, and I accept that. I am very proud for that role. It is my first year in the NBA, and I am learning. I am adapting my game for the big guys here. It is very hard.”

Laprovittola’s ability to adapt has allowed Popovich to keep Patty Mills in his comfortable role with the Spurs’ second unit, and he rebounded nicely in Minnesota after his worst game of the season in Milwaukee, where he missed all eight of his shots. He played 27 minutes against the Wolves, scored 15 points, and led the team with five assists.

The Spurs took command of the game in the third quarter with stingy defense that frustrated Karl-Anthony Towns, the 2015-16 Rookie of the Year who scored 47 points against the New York Knicks last week. He made only 3-of-16 shots against Spurs defenders.

“We found our rhythm defensively during the third quarter, and that’s what fuels us,” Popovich said. “We have this habit of just following teams around for a half on the road. Sometimes we follow them for three or three-and-a-half quarters at home, but on the road for the first half we’ve done it often, and then they realize they need to respect the other team; they need a little bit of appropriate fear; they need to focus, give their best every time. And then in the third quarter their defense picks up and everything else seems to come together then.”

The Spurs will try to make things come together again on Thursday, when they try for a bigger slice of NBA history in their 14th road game of the season, this time against the Chicago Bulls.

Mike Monroe

Mike Monroe is a longtime, award-winning NBA and Spurs reporter who recently retired from the Express-News and is now contributing to the Rivard Report.