Game Preview: Indiana Pacers at San Antonio Spurs

Feb 13, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) drives to the basket against Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. San Antonio defeats Indiana 110-106. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 13, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) drives to the basket against Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (13) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. San Antonio defeats Indiana 110-106. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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After a rigorous eight game Rodeo Road Trip, the San Antonio Spurs finally return to the AT&T Center to host the Indiana Pacers.

The San Antonio Spurs return to the AT&T Center for the first time since February 4th when they faced off against the Denver Nuggets. Since the Spurs knocked out their Rodeo Road Trip, they will play the next 16 out of 24 games at home.

The Spurs finished February with a record of 8-2, and come into this game playing some of their best basketball. With the return of veteran Pau Gasol, the Spurs are playing at full health for the first time since mid-January.

Sitting at 45-13, the Spurs have the NBA’s second-best record, just 4.0 games behind the Golden State Warriors. If you haven’t heard yet, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical is reporting that Kevin Durant’s knee injury may keep him out “months, not weeks.”

Sources: Warriors, Kevin Durant's inner-circle bracing for tough news on KD's knee, awaiting MRI result. Fear is he's out months, not weeks.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) March 1, 2017

Let’s preface this by wishing Durant nothing but the best with his recovery. Although MRI results are not back yet, we hope Durant is able to return this season.

With that being said, Durant’s potential injury could change the entire dynamic of the Western Conference, tightening the gap between the Warriors and the Spurs.

The Spurs will play 16 of their 24 remaining games at home, two of which come against GS, who play 7 of their next 8 on the road. One seed?

— Air Alamo (@AirAlamo) February 27, 2017

The Indiana Pacers come into this matchup with a record of 31-29, currently sixth in the Eastern Conference. Although they are just 3-7 in their last 10 games, they are coming off a 117-108 road victory against the third place Houston Rockets.

This loss helped the Spurs extend their lead on the number two seed to 4.5 games.

Before we make predictions about tonight’s game, we’ll take a look back at their first matchup.

February 13th

During the Spurs eight game road trip, their toughest battle came against the Pacers in Indiana.

It was a tightly contested battle that saw 14 lead changes, especially down the stretch in the fourth quarter. The Pacers had a 97-94 lead with about 4:08 left to play. Then, Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge happened, taking over in the ladder stages of the game.

Leonard finished the game with 32 points on 56.5% shooting, along with six rebounds, three assists and five steals and arguably the play of the game.

With a four point lead, Leonard was looking to ice the game. However, he lost possession to Paul George on a steal, in which Leonard stole it back from George, putting the game out of reach.

George finished with 27 points on 53.3% shooting, along with six rebounds and three assists.

It wasn’t just a closely contested game on the court, as the stats proved much of the same.

The Spurs had 37 rebounds, the Pacers had 31.

The Spurs had 18 assists, the Pacers had 21.

The Spurs had seven steals, the Pacers had eight.

Both teams finished with 11 turnovers.

This game simply came down to offensive execution down the stretch, where the Spurs showed they were the better team. When asked about the game, Gregg Popovich had this to say.

”It was a heck of a competitive game,” coach Gregg Popovich said. ”It was real physical and aggressive. I thought both teams played real well. I’m obviously thrilled with a win on the road. It could have gone either way.”

That was a pretty lengthy explanation, which for head coach Popovich doesn’t happen very often, so you can immediately tell he thought highly of the Pacers effort on the court.

Round Two

This time around, the Spurs will have Gasol in the lineup, presumably coming off the bench like he has in the previous two games. Unfortunately, the Spurs may be without Tony Parker.

INJURY REPORT – Tony Parker (quad contusion) is questionable for tomorrow's Spurs-Pacers game.

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) February 28, 2017

While his status for tonight’s game is unclear, if Parker is able to play, you can expect him to play limited minutes. If so, you can expect Spurs rookie Dejounte Murray to get some minutes at the point guard position tonight.

More from San Antonio Spurs News

For the Pacers, it seems like Al Jefferson is the only player in question, as he missed Monday’s game against the Rockets. His status for tonight is also unclear.

If Parker is unable to go, the starters won’t miss a beat with Patty Mills. However, Murray hasn’t played much this season with the second unit, so there may be a little inconsistency there.

Parker is 34 years old and has played in 45 of the 58 games for the Spurs, averaging about 26 minutes per game . So, it’s not like Parker has been overworked. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep Parker rested and healthy for a playoff push.

The Verdict

This is simply bad timing for the Pacers.

The Spurs have to be excited about playing at home for the first time in 16 days, and will probably come out with a high-level of intensity.

The Pacers are on a road-trip, and just finished an up-tempo game against the Rockets on Monday. The Spurs haven’t played since Sunday afternoon, and it was against the less-than-formidable Los Angeles Lakers. Safe to say, the Spurs are rested.

Top-5 Defenses in February #GoSpursGo 96.3 Pp/100979899100101#Takenote 102.0#DetroitBasketball 102.0#DubNation 103.1#MFFL 103.6

— Analyzing The League (@ATLeague_NBA) March 1, 2017

In addition to their rest and excitement to be home, the Spurs had the best defense in the month of February, allowing 96.3 points per 100 possessions.

Overall, the Spurs are allowing 98.3 points per game, second in the NBA. The Pacers are allowing 106.3 points per game, 21st in the NBA.

With the addition of fan favorite Dewayne Dedmon to the starting unit, the Spurs defense has been nothing short of elite. Now that Gasol is playing with the second unit, they are one of the most productive benches in the NBA.

Prediction

The Pacers are a solid team, but they will get out-hustled tonight by the Spurs.

The Spurs are a 10.5 point favorite tonight vs the Pacers.

Al Jefferson is listed as questionable for Indy (dental work).

— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) March 1, 2017

The Spurs will lead in all of the hustle categories (steals, blocks, turnovers) and win this game with relative ease tonight and improve to 46-13, just 3.5 games back of the Warriors.

Aldridge gets his jumper back with the home crowd behind him.

He and Leonard combine for 50 points.

Spurs win, 110-98.

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