Last season, the San Antonio Spurs struggled at the beginning of their annual rodeo road trip before finishing strong to launch an extended playoff push.
They hope a win over one of their top Western Conference rivals can turn this trip around and propel them to a similar run.
After snapping a season-high three-game losing streak with a win over a potential title contender, the Spurs look to build on that victory as they visit the struggling Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.
San Antonio (29-16) has been mediocre over the last eight weeks, going just 12-13 since its 17-3 start, including their first 0-3 stretch of the season from Jan. 26-29. They were blown out by New Orleans at home, then lost to Utah and Seattle in the first two games of the road trip they take every season when the rodeo takes over AT&T Center.
However, San Antonio might get a boost of momentum from its 84-81 victory at Phoenix on Thursday. The Suns entered that game with the best record in the West and the highest-scoring offense in the league, but the Spurs held them to a season-low point total while limiting them to 38.0 percent shooting—their second-worst performance of the season.
That defensive effort made up for San Antonio’s own offensive struggles in the first half. Manu Ginobili was held scoreless in the opening two quarters, while Tim Duncan had just six of his 16 points before intermission.
“We should have been behind by a lot more at the half,” said Duncan, who also finished with 17 rebounds and a season high-tying seven assists. “But we gave ourselves a chance with our defense.”
The Spurs hope that victory is the beginning of an extended surge like the one they put together last season. After losing four of the first six games of their rodeo trip, they won the last two to begin a 13-game win streak and a 25-6 finish to the regular season en route to their fourth NBA title in nine years.
San Antonio hopes to take advantage of Indiana (19-29), which has tied a season high with six straight losses. The Pacers haven’t lost seven in a row since their 11-game skid from Feb. 23-March 14 last season.
Indiana lost 121-115 to Orlando on Saturday, and has given up 107.8 points per game during its losing streak.
“We’ve got to keep coming in, working hard and improving to get ourselves in a better position,” said Pacers forward Mike Dunleavy, averaging 21.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists in his last five contests. “I think if we do that, good things can happen to us.”
Dunleavy scored 21 points to lead the Pacers to a 100-99 win over the Spurs in the teams’ final matchup of last season on April 1, but San Antonio has won 14 of the last 19 meetings.
Duncan had 17 points and 12 rebounds in the April loss, and averaged 22.0 points and 9.5 boards while shooting 63.0 percent (17-for-27) as the Spurs split two games last season.
The Spurs will again be without starting point guard Tony Parker, who’s sidelined indefinitely with a heel injury. However, they bolstered their backcourt with Sunday’s signing of free agent point guard Damon Stoudamire, who negotiated a buyout with Memphis last week. Stoudamire last played for Memphis on Dec. 30 against San Antonio, and may be able to play in this game.