7:00 PM ET, March 31, 2014
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
INDIANAPOLIS -- San Antonio is steamrolling its way into the playoffs. Indiana can't even figure out what's wrong.
And a game that might have been billed as an NBA Finals preview just a week or two ago demonstrated just how wide the disparity is now.
Windhorst: Pacers Sink While Spurs Streak
The night Indiana fell out of the East lead raises more questions of what's wrong in Indy, Brian Windhorst writes. Dime
"Great streak right now, this was a good win for us tonight," Tim Duncan said. "To continue the streak, all that is good. We'll worry about a couple of things, staying healthy, finishing the season strong and hopefully going into the playoffs with the confidence we're playing with now."
It seems nothing can derail the Spurs (58-16) right now.
On a night Duncan went 3 of 10 from the field and Manu Ginobili managed only six points and two assists in 16 minutes, San Antonio's Big Three added one more line to its already impressive resume by breaking the franchise record on the 18th anniversary of the only previous 17-game winning streak in Spurs' history.
This was not just another win.
About 75 minutes before tip-off, the Spurs blunt-speaking coach, Gregg Popovich, told reporters that sometimes when a team wins a lot, it just needs to get "slapped."
Popovich's players followed a different tack -- taking control early, fending off every challenge along the way and wrapping it up late.
San Antonio's Streak
In their last 18 games, the Spurs lead the NBA in offensive efficiency and 3-point percentage. They've been playing at a faster pace during the streak, averaging two more possessions per game.
Spurs This Season
|1st 56 Games||Last 18 Games|
|*- Best in NBA during that span|
--ESPN Stats & Information
The result: San Antonio handed the Pacers their worst home loss of the season and dropped them percentage points behind Miami for the Eastern Conference's top seed.
"I think he'll be happy if we lose anytime soon," Parker said of Popovich. "I'm pretty sure because he's going to rest like half of the team."
The loss was a devastating blow to the Pacers (52-23), who have made no secret of their desire to get home-court advantage in the East and had a seemingly safe three-game lead after beating Miami at home last Wednesday. But the Pacers have lost three straight, finished March with an 8-9 record and with the lowest scoring average of any team in the league.
They have lost five of six overall and seem to be in full panic mode with seven games left in the regular season.
"It's awful, we've been in a downward spiral and we've been splintering a little bit," Roy Hibbert said. "We've had plenty of players-only meetings and plenty of sit-downs as a team with coaches and we've had some upper management in here, so I don't know. Maybe we should all go to group therapy or something, sit down with Dr. (Chris) Carr and figure out some of our grievances."
Carr is the team's performance psychologist.
Whatever the problem, these are not the same Pacers who have led the East from opening night through the end of March.
Indiana fans, who have seen their team go an NBA-best 33-5 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season, let them know they didn't like it by booing briefly throughout the game, most extensively when coach Frank Vogel conceded the loss by sitting his starters for the final 3:37.
"Their togetherness really showed, that's where they beat us," George said. "That was a team that's all together playing as one, the team that we were to start the year."
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The Spurs put Indiana in a 13-5 hole, then used a 15-0 run to take a 32-15 lead early in the second quarter, forcing Indiana to play catch-up. The Pacers never got closer than seven.
Indiana did have a few bursts.
Lance Stephenson provided some spunk with a one-handed dunk, a steal and a driving layup in a 39-second span of the second quarter to get the Pacers within 37-26. But Parker hit a 20-footer, Ginobili made 1 of 2 free throws and Parker drove in for a layup to rebuild the lead, which was 48-35 at halftime
When George scored four in a row to finally get the Pacers within single digits at 59-50, Parker's layup during a 5-0 spurt helped San Antonio make it 64-50. And when Indiana got as close as seven early in the fourth, the Spurs pulled away.
"It's hard to explain," Parker said when asked about the Pacers' collapse. "Everybody goes through this. I'm not worried about them. They'll still make it to the Eastern Conference finals and they'll still play Miami."
The 26-point margin also matched Indiana's worst loss of the season, at Houston on March 7. ... Indiana has lost six straight home games to San Antonio.
INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 31: Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs drives against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life...(Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
Around The Association
MVP: Kawhi Leonard. Tony Parker broke out of his brief offensive slump, but Leonard had 13 points, 11 boards and harassed Paul George into 5-for-13 shooting and five turnovers.
Turning point: After a horrid start, the Pacers steadily improved as the game went along, winning the third quarter 24-21. But the Spurs dominated the fourth quarter, scoring on 13 straight possessions and holding Indiana to 18 points.
X factor: The Spurs had one of their more active defensive performances of the season and the Pacers struggled to cope. Indiana shot under 38 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 15 times.
Next 5 Games
Tony Parker was responsible for 18 points on 14 drives Monday, including 11 of the Spurs 25 first-quarter points. Parker scored 10 of his game-high 22 points on drives, nearly doubling his season average (6.3) on such plays.
The Spurs had an offensive efficiency of 124.8 Monday, their second-highest efficiency during their 18-game win streak. Since their last loss on February 21, the Spurs lead the league in offensive (112.5) and defensive efficiency (96.5).
Paul George was just 5-of-13 (38.5%) vs the Spurs Monday. His shooting percentage has dropped each month of the season as he finished March shooting just 37.2% from the floor.[+]
Paul George Shooting Percentage - Month-By-Month This Season
The Spurs efficiency has been the highlight this year, as they rank among the top five in points per 100 possessions on offense and defense. That equates to a net efficiency of +8.9 points per 100 possessions, the best in the NBA, and during their 18-game run, that number is a remarkable +16.1.[+]
Highest Net Efficiency This Season
The Pacers offense has really struggled since the All-Star break... They are just 12-10 in that stretch, and averaging only 99 points per 100 possessions, which is 2nd worst in the NBA and ahead of only the 76ers, who are 1-18 since the break.[+]
Fewest Pts Per 100 Possessions - Since All-Star Break
ESPN Stats & Information
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