Miscommunication and a missed opportunity in the final seconds helped drop the San Antonio Spurs down a spot in the Western Conference standings. The Indiana Pacers’ performance in the clutch in their previous win boosted their faint playoff hopes.
While they have handled the Pacers over the last four seasons, the Spurs might be catching them at the wrong time.
Looking to maintain its slim Southwest Division lead, San Antonio will attempt to avoid tying its longest losing streak this season Friday night at Indiana, which is trying to match its longest win streak.
Following consecutive losses, the Spurs’ advantage over Houston in the Southwest is down to a half game, and a 96-95 defeat on Tuesday to visiting Oklahoma City dropped them behind Denver in a highly-contested race for the No. 2 seed in the West. Clinching its 12th consecutive postseason appearance later that night due to tiebreakers, San Antonio (48-26) comes into Friday’s play one game behind the Nuggets.
After Tim Duncan blocked a shot by the Thunder’s Jeff Green with 13 seconds left, San Antonio didn’t call a timeout to set up the final play. The Spurs struggled to find an open shooter before Michael Finley’s attempt went off the rim.
Duncan deemed it “a mental lapse,” and San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said the team should have “absolutely” called a timeout.
“We’re really struggling right now,” said Duncan, who led the Spurs with 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting. “We’re going through a really bad time, and not the right time of year to do that. We have to take personal responsibility and step up and change what’s happening out here.”
The Spurs are 5-6 since March 12 with their losses all coming by single digits, but they haven’t dropped three straight since beginning the season 0-3. San Antonio, which plays five of its final eight away from home, have alternated losses and wins in seven March road games and travel to NBA-leading Cleveland on Sunday.
The Pacers, meanwhile, are searching for their third straight win and fourth in a row at home.
While the Spurs’ loss came under confusing circumstances, Indiana rallied from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter Tuesday against visiting Chicago and posted a 107-105 victory on T.J. Ford’s basket with 3.9 seconds left.
Its fourth win in five games moved Indiana (32-43) to within 3 1/2 games of the eighth-place Bulls, and it was the 16th victory in the last 21 home games for the Pacers, who have five of their remaining seven at Conseco Fieldhouse.
“Just trying to win, man, just trying to win,” Ford said. “We don’t want to give up. People are still coming out to support us, and we want to put on a show. I don’t think anybody is playing to lose.”
Ford had 22 points and nine assists off the bench, and Danny Granger led Indiana with 31 points for his third consecutive 30-point performance. Granger remains sixth in the league with 25.1 points per game, but was held to 17 on 5-of-15 shooting in a 99-81 loss on Jan. 20 in San Antonio.
In their third consecutive win over Indiana, the Spurs limited the Pacers to 37.0 shooting and their second-lowest point total this season.
San Antonio has won five of the last six meetings by an average of 15.2 points.
– Story Credit, ALAN FERGUSON, NBA.com
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