Spurs 112, Pacers 103

The San Antonio Spurs keep cruising behind what Tim Duncan says

is a deeper team than even any during his four championship

seasons.

Yet the old-timer certainly still deserves his share of

credit.

Duncan had 23 points and 11 rebounds and the Spurs remained the

hottest team in the NBA, beating the Indiana Pacers 112-103 for

their seventh consecutive win and 10th in 11 games Saturday

night.

A week that started with Duncan resting against Philadelphia –

when ”DND-Old” was officially listed as the reason in the box

score – ended with his fourth double-double in his last six games.

Duncan, who turns 36 this month, has looked especially spry since

that night off, averaging 22.3 points and 10 rebounds his last

three games.

”I thought we finished the game very well,” said Duncan, who

helped the Spurs thwart a late Indiana run. ”We did good with

moving the ball and defensively we made the stops.”

Paul George and Danny Granger each scored 18 for Indiana. The

Pacers have lost two of three while trying to break out of the

logjammed East playoff picture and secure some home-court edge.

”The rest of our schedule is kind of tough. We don’t have any

days off in between back-to-backs and whatnot,” Granger said. ”We

really have to close out these last 14 and 15 games and go 12-2,

12-3 – you know, something like that, to really get a lot of

momentum going into the playoffs.”

The Spurs aren’t budging in the standings, either. They’re 2 1/2

games behind first-place Oklahoma City and remain stuck behind the

similarly streaking Thunder.

Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili added 18 points apiece. The Spurs

are 8-1 since making a rare plunge into midseason moves by adding

forwards Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw, giving San Antonio a bench

that has drawn raves from Duncan.

Gary Neal scored 11 points and Tiago Splitter added 10 as the

Spurs showed off their newfound depth. Their bench outscored

Indiana’s 52-29.

”The more practice we get, the more we play together, I think

we’re realizing how deep this team is,” said Jackson, who scored

eight points.

David West and Roy Hibbert scored 15 points apiece for the

Pacers, and Tyler Hansbrough added 12 off the bench. Indiana shaved

a 22-point deficit to get within seven points with 5 minutes to go,

but the Spurs instantly answered with a 7-2 run in the span of

about 1 1/2 minutes to put the game safely out of reach.

Hibbert, who worked out with Duncan in San Antonio during the

lockout, said he has grown close to the perennial All-Star. On

Friday, he texted Duncan and asked how he should guard him.

”He said, `Go for every pump fake,”’ Hibbert said.

Jackson is averaging around 10 points off the bench since coming

back to San Antonio in a trade-deadline deal with Golden State.

Jackson proved essential to the Spurs during their title run in

2003, and they hope his return recaptures some of that magic while

gunning for a fifth title in the Duncan era.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who doubles as team president, also

bolstered his frontcourt this month by signing Diaw and added point

guard Patty Mills. Seldom have the Spurs been so active on the NBA

market in the middle of a season.

Popovich is counting on his new depth in the final month. The

Spurs finish the season with 16 games in 23 days, including six

back-to-backs. Popovich said he still isn’t comfortable playing

Ginobili on consecutive nights, since his playmaking guard has

already missed more than half the season banged up.

Last season, Ginobili was hurt in a meaningless regular-season

finale, which helped sink the Spurs in a stunning first-round

playoff ouster. It’s not a scenario Popovich wants to repeat – but

his stars also resist sitting out.

”I always have to fight Manu and Timmy,” Popovich said before

tipoff. ”I’ve won a couple battles.”

Notes: Diaw didn’t play for the first time since signing with

the Spurs on March 23 … San Antonio has won nine in a row against

the Pacers. … The Spurs’ 39-point second quarter was a season

high.