San Antonio Spurs 103, Indiana Pacers 77: Spurs decimate Pacers for two of four quarters
The Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs are two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions. The Spurs entered Wednesday night having won 17 in a row. Indiana, on the other hand, had lost nine of its previous 15 contests. For two quarters of play on Monday night, however, both teams looked like they were on equal footing.
The only problem is, those two quarters were sandwiched between another two in which the Spurs laid the smack down on the Pacers.
San Antonio set a franchise record for consecutive regular season wins on Monday night with its 18th victory in a row, beating Indiana 103-77, and confirmed pretty much every suspicion you may have had about how well the Spurs were playing. The Pacers, meanwhile, continue their vicious downward spiral.
In the victory, Tony Parker broke out of a mini-slump for the Spurs. I mentioned it in El Conclusion after Saturday’s win over the Pelicans, but Parker hadn’t looked great in San Antonio’s previous three games. Well, he looked fine on Monday night in Indianapolis. Parker darted in and out of the lane offensively and shot well to the tune of 22 points on 10-of-18 from the floor.
The biggest takeaway is that Parker’s legs looked fresh. Which, based on how last season ended, is probably of the upmost concern for Spurs fans.
The win over Indiana was one of San Antonio’s best defensive performances of the season. While the Pacers aren’t an elite scoring team this season, they rank 22nd in offensive efficiency, this was about as active as I’ve seen San Antonio on that end of the floor. Spur defenders crowded their Pacer counterparts and made a serious effort to keep their hands in eye lines and passing lanes. Members of the Foreign Legion were standouts in this regard.
Indiana managed to shoot just 29 percent in the first quarter as the Spurs jumped out to a 25-15 lead. The Pacers shot just 38 percent on the evening.
As usual the last few weeks, Kawhi Leonard was a star on defense. Paul George was a much-talked about MVP candidate early in the season, but is slumping lately and against the stopping prowess of Leonard, George managed 16 points on 5-for-13 shooting and five turnovers. Much of George’s night was spent trying to free himself from Leonard’s long arms.
George had more success when he was able to get the ball in his own backcourt than trying to find space in the halfcourt. One of the best ways to stop a player from scoring is to prevent him from getting the ball in the first place, and Leonard overplayed George well away from the ball and forced Indiana to explore other options. In the first half, George took just four shot attempts for six points.
The Pacers’ missed shots helped fuel San Antonio’s offense as well. Not wanting to spend too much time trying to score on Indiana’s excellent halfcourt defense, the Spurs took a number of shots in transition early to open things up. Danny Green was particularly obvious in this regard, taking a handful of transition 3s early on.
It was the smart play. With guys like Green, Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills, the Spurs have the ability to drain perimeter shots in transition and stretch the defense. Any transition points San Antonio can score early only helps to stretch Indiana’s top-ranked defense as the night goes along.
That wasn’t surprising, but what was unexpected was the fervor with which San Antonio attacked the offensive glass. Gregg Popovich would rather get back on defense than crash the offensive boards every day and twice on Sunday, but with immobile big men like Roy Hibbert, Luis Scola and, to some extent, David West, the Spurs weren’t worried about the Pacers getting out on the break. Both big men in black and silver often followed San Antonio’s shots and gave at least the ol’ college try at nabbing a loose ball.
San Antonio grabbed 15 offensive rebounds in the end, leading to 17 second chance points. The Spurs’ 35.7 offensive rebound percentage was well above their season average of 22.6 percent.
After the Pacers climbed back into the game in the second and third quarters, San Antonio again took the game by the scruff of the neck in the fourth. By my count, the Spurs scored on 13 straight possessions in the final period and outscored Indiana 34-18. It was an offensive clinic and the Pacers had no answer.
The San Antonio Spurs once won 20 games in a row, culminating with a Game 2 win in the 2012 Western Conference Finals. The Spurs then lost four in a row, seemingly forgetting how to bounce back from a loss and bowing out of those same Conference Finals in unceremonious fashion.
This current winning streak the Spurs are enjoying will end soon. Possibly as early as Wednesday or Thursday. But for those worrying about the Spurs peaking too early, know this: whenever this streak comes to an end, they’ll have a little more time to remember how to bounce back from adversity and likely an opponent a little more forgiving with which to play against than that Oklahoma City Thunder group. And while they won’t be chasing history any more, it will still be a damn good Spurs team.