INDIANAPOLIS – San Antonio is steamrolling its way into the playoffs. Indiana can’t even figure out what is wrong.
And a game that might have been billed as an NBA Finals preview a week or two ago demonstrated how wide the disparity is.
Tony Parker scored 22 points, Boris Diaw added 14 and the Spurs set a franchise record with their 18th consecutive victory, 103-77 over the Pacers on Monday night.
“Great streak right now, this was a good win for us tonight,” San Antonio’s 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.”
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Not much has rattled the Spurs (58-16) lately.
On a night Duncan went 3 of 10 from the field and Manu Ginobili managed a mere six points and two assists in 16 minutes, San Antonio’s Big Three added one more line to its already impressive résumé by setting the franchise record on the 18th anniversary of the only previous 17-game winning streak in Spurs’ history.
This was not just another victory.
About 75 minutes before tipoff, 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.
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 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 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,” center 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.
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 at times.
• LeBron James scored 32 points, Chris Bosh added 18 and host Miami beat Toronto 93-83 to take the top spot in the East.
Chris Andersen scored 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting and Mario Chalmers added 12 for Miami, which was again without Dwyane Wade, Greg Oden and Ray Allen because of injury or illness.
• Darren Collison had 28 points and seven assists, and the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t miss a beat with forward Blake Griffin out with a back injury. They beat host Minnesota 114-104.
Kevin Love had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Timberwolves.
• DeMarcus Cousins had 35 points and 14 rebounds, and visiting Sacramento snapped a three-game skid by beating New Orleans 102-97.
• Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points on 11-of-19 shooting and visiting New York beat Utah 92-83 to stay one game behind the Atlanta Hawks in the chase for the eighth and final playoff berth in the East.
The Hawks beat Philadelphia 103-95 to end their losing streak at six games.
• Zach Randolph collected 20 points and 11 rebounds as Memphis won 94-92 at Denver, creating a three-way tie for seventh place in the West. Memphis, Dallas and Phoenix have 44-30 records and are 1½ games behind sixth-place Golden State (45-28).