Preview & Prediction: San Antonio Spurs at Indiana Pacers

The San Antonio will look to put their tough loss at Madison Square Garden behind them as they look to improve their Rodeo Road Trip record to 3-2 when they face off against the Indiana Pacers tonight.

It’s game day for the Spurs, which means the loss against the New York Knicks is in the past.

Today, the focus for the Spurs is on Paul George and the Indiana Pacers.

More importantly, the focus for the Spurs should be on “putting the ball in that orange ring,” as Gregg Popovich so elegantly put it following the loss last night.

It’s simple: If the Spurs can shoot better than 36% from the field, and 20% from beyond the arc, the chances of winning a basketball game significantly increase, especially when you defend at a high level like the Spurs are capable of doing.

It’s also worth noting: Losing Tim Duncan, a first ballot hall-of-famer and one of the best defensive players of all time, and still managing to be an elite defensive team speaks volumes to Popovich’s ability as a head coach.

Without Tim Duncan, the Spurs started this NBA season with a record of 41-13, which is the third best start in franchise history. While it’s a testament to Kawhi Leonard’s greatness, it’s more of a testament to Popovich’s ability to get the most out of his players.

If the Spurs had Gasol for the entire season, then maybe the Spurs are a 41-win team. However, Gasol has missed 13 games already, and plans to miss the next two before the all-star break. On paper, no way is this Spurs team a 41-win team, talent-wise.

Credit should be given where credit is due, and Popovich is deserving of yet another Coach of the Year Award at the end of the season, assuming of course, the Spurs finish strong.

If Popovich did win the award, it would be his fourth Coach of the Year Award, the most in NBA history, breaking his tie with Pat Riley and Don Nelson.

With that being said, it’s time to move on to the Pacers.

The Spurs are entering this matchup with a 41-13 overall record, second best in the NBA behind the 46-8 Golden State Warriors. The Spurs are 22-7 on the road, also second best behind the 23-5 Warriors.

Unfortunately, the Spurs are 6-4 in their last 10 games, and are coming off an abysmal shooting performance yesterday against the Knicks.

It is quite clear that the loss of Gasol has hurt the Spurs, especially on the offensive end. Dewayne Dedmon is a solid fill-in on the defensive end as a strong rebounder, but Gasol’s offensive capabilities are sorely missed.

The Pacers come into this game with an overall record of 29-25, which is currently sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Although they are 7-3 in their last 10 games, the previous three games have all been losses. On the other hand, the Pacers are 20-8 at home this season, fifth best in the NBA.

The biggest problem with the Pacers has been their consistency.

The Pacers lost three straight games, then won seven straight, and lost the last three games heading into tonight’s matchup. During their three game skid, the Pacers lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards, two of the East’s best teams.

However, on Saturday night, they lost to the heavily under-manned Milwaukee Bucks without Jabari Parker, which is a game the Pacers should have won.

The Pacers schedule doesn’t get any better, either. The Pacers will play the Spurs, Cavaliers, and the Wizards before heading into the all-star break. Ouch.

By The Numbers

Offensively, these teams are similar. The Spurs average 106.6 points per game (10th in the NBA) and the Pacers average 105.6 points per game (14th in the NBA).

The Spurs are shooting 47.5% from the field (3rd in the NBA), while the Pacers are shooting 46.5% (9th in the NBA). From beyond the arc, the Spurs are shooting a league-best (forget yesterday) 40.3%, while the Pacers are shooting 36.7%, eighth best in the NBA.

The biggest offensive disparity will come on the rebounding differentials. On the season, the Spurs are +2.4 in rebounding, fifth best in the NBA. The Pacers are -3.8 on the season, tied for 27th.

Defensively, the Spurs have the immediate advantage.

The Spurs allow 98.6 points per game, second-best in the NBA. The Pacers allow 106.1 points per game, 21st in the NBA. The Spurs hold teams to 44.2% shooting, while the Pacers hold teams to 44.9% shooting.

The Pacers biggest problem on defense? Fouling. The Pacers are giving up 24.3 free-throw attempts a game, 22nd in the NBA. The Spurs give up 21.3, seventh in the NBA.

Matchup to Watch

This one’s easy: Leonard vs George.

Leonard is putting together his best NBA season, averaging 25.8 points per game (ninth in the NBA) on 48.6% shooting, along with 5.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 39.1% from beyond the arc and 89.9% from the free-throw line.

George, on other hand, is putting together a solid season himself. He is averaging 22.5 points per game (22nd in the NBA) on 45.2% shooting, along with 6.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 38.1% from beyond the arc and 91.3% from the charity stripe.

Overall, those are some pretty solid numbers. With the addition of Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young, and the emergence of Myles Turner, the scoring load isn’t solely on the shoulders of George.

In the absence of Gasol, the scoring load has been on the shoulders of Leonard, despite having a healthy LaMarcus Aldridge. Unfortunately, Aldridge hasn’t been as consistent as most expected him to be, but don’t expect that to last much longer.

Prediction

Want to know the best thing about shooting slumps? They end, eventually.

The Spurs are coming off their worst shooting performance of the season, which is comforting news, because the Spurs literally cannot shoot worse if they tried.

Tonight, they will snap out of it.

Here is another important stat: Of all 13 Spur losses this season, only twice have they lost back-to-back games. Back in the beginning of the season when they lost to the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets, and in late January when they lost to the New Orleans Pelicans and Dallas Mavericks.

Otherwise, the Spurs are one of the best teams in the NBA in terms of bouncing back from a loss.

Final note: The Spurs are 4-1 on Mondays this season. Tonight, they will make it 5-1.

Leonard won’t score 30 points, but will get help from Aldridge/Danny Green/Tony Parker and the Spurs will improve their Rodeo Road Trip record to 3-2, and 42-13 overall.

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The Spurs can’t afford many more losses, as the third place Rockets are 40-17, just 2.0 games back of the Spurs in the Southwest Conference.

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