Quick take: Spurs (9-3) vs. Pacers (6-7)
Mar 31, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (left) and Indiana Pacers guard George Hill (right) share a laugh before their game at the AT
The Spurs will win if: They can muster up enough efficient attempts against the Pacers defense, who are limiting opponents to 99.3 points per 100 possessions (second behind the Atlanta Hawks) and a modest .435 effective field goal percentage (first). Turnover creation isn’t a strength, however, making success essentially a battle of attrition.
The Spurs will lose if: The Pacers funnel the Spurs ball handlers in the paint, where center Roy Hibbert generally resides, and they disrupt the perimeter shooters. Indiana has been adept at both — averaging nearly eight blocks per game while limiting 3-point looks to a 33.9 percent success rate — so this could be possible. The real test will be for the offense to score enough to points to supplement their defensive proficiency.
X-Factor: The Spurs easily dispelled of the Indiana Pacers on Nov. 5 in their 101-79 victory, setting the franchise record in wins (4-0) in the process, but George Hill was still effective in 31 minutes. Hill finished with 15 points, six assists, four rebounds and two 3-pointers.
Hill, the Pacers starting point guard and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s favorite player, is averaging a career high in minutes (35.2), points (13.6), assists (5.2), rebounds (4.1), steals (1.1) and free throw percentage (.837) this season. While much of these career highs are because he is receiving more minutes — and his field goal percentage has dipped as a result — Hill is indeed been an effective cog in the Pacers 27th-ranked offense.
According to NBA.com/Stats, the Pacers score even less — which is already hard to do — with Hill on the bench. Without the tutelage of the five-year point guard, Indiana scores an historically low 88.1 points per 100 possessions with a .412 effective field goal percentage; both marks that the Charlotte Bobcats bested last season.