Spurs build big lead, hold on in Indy
Fortunately, for the Spurs, the Pacers played poor defense the entire game. Indiana scored 40 points and shot 70 percent in the fourth quarter, but the Spurs beat the Pacers 126-121 on Friday night.
The Spurs were happy to win, but shocked by their late defensive collapse.
"I think I can count it on one hand the past five years how many teams have scored 40 on us in a quarter," Spurs center Tim Duncan said.
The Spurs got away with it because they had a 12-point lead going into the period and shot 55 percent overall.
Tony Parker had 31 points and 10 assists, Duncan had 22 points and 11 rebounds, Michael Finley scored 18 points and Drew Gooden added 17 for the Spurs, who now trail Denver by half a game in the scramble for the No. 2 seed in the West.
"We're trying to get some momentum going," Duncan said. "We haven't played well for the last 20 games. We're in a heck of a race in the West. We're just trying to hold onto our position and gain some confidence going into the playoffs."
Parker said the team isn't quite where it needs to be. Coach Gregg Popovich is trying to balance pushing the team to a higher seed while trying to figure out how he'll manage his team during the postseason.
"I still think we can be better, and I think Pop is still choosing his rotation and who he's going to play for the playoffs," Parker said.
Danny Granger scored 35 points for the Pacers, his fourth straight game with at least 30 points. Jarrett Jack scored 22 points, and Troy Murphy added 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Pacers, who fell four games behind Chicago for the No. 8 spot in the East.
Indiana coach Jim O'Brien isn't focusing on the playoff race anymore.
"To tell you the truth, it's in the back of my mind," he said. "We're playing to get better, and if we have to play for pride, that's not a bad thing to play for."
Indiana shot an impressive 52 percent from the field and still lost.
"They're a tough team to guard, but I thought we let ourselves down defensively," O'Brien said.
The Pacers overcame a 15-point deficit in the second half to lead several times in the fourth quarter, but the Spurs rallied to snap a two-game losing streak. The Spurs were coming off an embarrassing home loss to Oklahoma City.
San Antonio led by 12 at the end of the third quarter, and the Spurs appeared to be cruising until the Pacers started connecting from long range. Granger and Jack made back-to-back threes to cut San Antonio's lead to 104-101 with just over six minutes left. Murphy made a 3-pointer, then Granger gave the Pacers their first lead of the second half on a layup with 5:29 to play.
"They hit some shots," Duncan said. "They hit some great shots. They spread the floor, and Troy and Danny and Jarrett hit some big shots that got them back into it. We had some defensive breakdowns, but give them credit for playing well."
Parker answered Indiana's push with a 3-pointer from the left wing, then a long 2-pointer to put the Spurs up 120-117 with a minute to play.
Jack missed a 27-foot jumper and Ginobili rebounded. On the other end, Ginobili missed a 3-pointer as the shot clock wound down, but Duncan's soft one-handed tip went in to give the Spurs a 122-117 lead with 31 seconds left.
Finley made two free throws for the Spurs, then Indiana's T.J. Ford was fouled on a made layup with 13 seconds to play. He missed the free throw, but Duncan secured the rebound. Ginobili made both free throws with 9 seconds left to put the game out of reach.
Gooden, who had his best offensive game as a Spur, said the team knows how to win close games.
"That's what we've been doing," he said. "When the going gets tough, we have I think, some championship caliber basketball to get us back into games and have a chance to win them."
Though the Spurs aren't playing their best, Duncan said the team has intensity it needs at this time of the year.
"Absolutely now," he said. "Could I have answered that question differently five games ago? Probably."
The Spurs are closing in on the No. 2 seed with little fanfare.
"It's always that way," Duncan said. "We're just trying to take care of our own stuff."
Notes: Indiana rookies Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert combined for 14 of the team's 30 points in the first quarter. ... Indiana G Marquis Daniels sat out with a sprained right wrist. ... San Antonio G George Hill, an Indianapolis native, entered the game with 4:08 left in the third quarter. He scored his only basket on a putback with eight minutes to play.