The San Antonio Spurs are coming off what coach Gregg Popovich referred to as “the most disappointing loss of the season.”
The defending NBA champions will have a chance to rebound when they visit the Boston Celtics at the FleetCenter.
San Antonio has dropped three straight, including Friday’s 89-79 setback at Eastern Conference-leading Indiana. The Spurs shot a dismal 36 percent from the field and made just 5-of-16 free throws.
“Maybe I need new speeches or something,” Popovich quipped. “The lack of mental toughness and leadership out on the court tonight was not very impressive. It was the most disappointing loss of the season.”
San Antonio has dropped into second place in the Midwest Division, behind the surging Minnesota Timberwolves.
Tim Duncan had nine rebounds and seven assists Friday, but scored 16 points on 4-of-18 shooting.
“We’re just having off nights all at the same time,” Duncan said. “We’ll try and recover from this and get back in a good stretch. We’re a veteran ball club, I think we will.”
The Celtics are coming off a 124-118 overtime loss to the NBA-worst Orlando Magic on Friday. An 8-0 run by the Magic sealed the game and sent Boston to its third straight defeat.
Paul Pierce shot just 7-of-26 from the field and finished with 20 points. His outing came two nights after he scored a season-low four points in a home loss to Houston.
“The last few games, I have not stepped up like I know I should and I take the blame for not stepping up,” said Pierce, who shot 1-of-10 Wednesday. “I don’t get discouraged. I’ve already forgotten about this game.”
Celtics forward Vin Baker played for the first time since he was suspended by the league for failing to comply with the conditions of his aftercare program.
He made his first four shots and finished with 12 points.
“I got off to a good start but I would have loved to have won the game,” Baker said. “My wind felt good. It felt good being back in the mix.”
STANDINGS (through Jan. 16): Spurs - 2nd place, 1 1/2 GB, Midwest Division. Celtics - 2nd place, 3 1/2 GB, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Spurs - Duncan, 22.4 ppg and 12.8 rpg; Parker, 5.7 apg. Celtics - Pierce, 23.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg and 5.8 apg.
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: Spurs, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: March 9; Spurs, 94-78. At San Antonio, Jackson hit a 3-pointer with 9.6 seconds left for his only basket of the second half as the Spurs swept the season series. Duncan had 21 points while Jackson finished with 18.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Spurs - 10-9 on the road; Celtics - 10-12 at home.