The San Antonio Spurs have won four NBA championships, made 32 playoff appearances and captured 18 division titles in their 40-year history.
Yet for all their success, they had never opened a season with four straight victories.
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the Spurs finally did so Monday night, rolling past the Indiana Pacers 101-79 to remain unbeaten.
”I’m surprised we’re still doing records,” Parker said. ”It seems like we did everything, but that’s another one. That’s great.”
It’s an unprecedented start for San Antonio, albeit one that left players scratching their heads.
”It’s just a stat, not that important in the long-term,” Manu Ginobili said. ”(But) at this point we are enjoying it. It’s curious that a team this successful hasn’t started that well before.”
The Spurs upended the Pacers (2-2) with what has become a familiar formula in recent years: a little Parker, a little Duncan and a lot off the bench.
Gary Neal scored 17 points, DeJuan Blair 14 and Stephen Jackson 12 to pace San Antonio’s reserves. The Spurs outscored the Pacers’ bench 57-35.
”That’s kind of been our motto,” Neal said. ”With Manu coming off and Stephen Jackson, those guys could be starting on any team in the NBA. We are a deep team. We’ve just got to maintain effort when the bench comes in.”
Duncan added 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Parker finished with six points, seven assists and only one turnover.
Former Spurs guard George Hill led Indiana with 15 points. Paul George added 14 points and David West had 10.
The Spurs needed a boost from their bench after a sluggish start.
Both teams aggressively defended the point early, resulting in a combined 4-for-16 shooting from the field in the first 5 minutes.
The Spurs then scored nine straight points to take a 14-9 lead after sharing the ball more. Boris Diaw capped the run with a layup off a bounce pass from Parker with 5 minutes left in the first quarter.
Parker later fed a cutting Ginobili, who made a tip pass to Blair for a layup with 1 second left in the first quarter for a 26-18 lead.
”We moved the ball well,” Ginobili said. ”Gary was impressive today. But yeah, we changed the tempo of the game. We did good — much better than the last game.”
Parker had three of the team’s seven assists in the first quarter.
Parker sat for 9 minutes in the second period after playing the entire first. With the All-Star point guard on the bench, Jackson and Neal combined for nine points in an 11-0 run that gave the Spurs a 37-18 lead to open the second.
Indiana did not surpass 20 points until West dunked off an offensive rebound with 7 minutes left in the first half.
West kept the Pacers in contention, scoring all 10 of his points in the second quarter while going 4 for 5 from the field. His 23-foot jumper cut San Antonio’s lead to 47-38 at halftime.
The Spurs maintained a double-digit lead for nearly all of the second half.
The Pacers shot just 35 percent for the game. San Antonio forced 14 turnovers in the second half.
”Their continuity is evident just watching them play,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. ”Thirteen of their 14 guys were here last year and their core guys have been here for many years winning championships. It’s a system they are familiar with. They are a well-oiled machine and they play extremely hard on both sides of the court.”
NOTES: Indiana forward Danny Granger missed his fourth game with a sore left knee. Granger is out indefinitely. … Former Indiana Pacers point guard Haywoode Workman was among the game officials. Workman played for the Pacers from 1993-99 and spent parts of four other seasons with three other clubs. His final season in the NBA was 2000 with the Toronto Raptors. … Hill received a loud ovation during pregame introductions. … Parker went flying over the first row of courtside seats while chasing down a loose ball in the second half. He landed partially on Ed Whitacre, bending the eyeglass frame of the former CEO of General Motors and AT&T.