Thanks to improved performances at both ends of the floor, Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs are starting to emerge from a slow start.
A matchup with the Indiana Pacers should help San Antonio give its coach a good shot at his 700th career win.
Popovich will try to lead the Spurs to their fifth victory in six games and their eighth straight home win against the Pacers on Saturday night.
With its top three players missing games earlier this season, San Antonio (13-10) struggled to find a consistent groove - especially on offense - while splitting its first 18 games.
The Spurs averaged 100.0 points but much of that came from five games in which they scored 112 or more. In the other 13 contests, San Antonio averaged 93.3 points.
Tim Duncan(notes), Tony Parker(notes) and Manu Ginobili(notes) have stayed healthy this month, and it’s seemed to pay off for the Spurs, who have averaged 108.8 points and shot 52.9 percent in the past five games.
Duncan has averaged a team-best 23.2 points in that time, and he followed a season-high 34 in Phoenix on Tuesday with 27 in a 103-91 victory at Golden State on Wednesday.
“We’re trying to turn that corner and learn from our mistakes and be better about it,” Duncan said.
The Spurs have also limited their last four opponents to an average of 95.5 points after giving up at least 104 in each of the three previous games.
Despite his team making strides, Ginobili isn’t completely satisfied yet.
“We’ve had a couple of pretty good games, but we’re not playing at our full potential,” Ginobili said. “That’s something we want to accomplish and the sooner, the better. We know we can do so much better.”
Ginobili has led the Spurs during their four straight overall wins over the Pacers with 21.3 points per game on 62.2 percent shooting, and Parker is not far behind with 21.0 points per game.
Indiana (9-15) has split six games since losing leading scorer Danny Granger(notes) to a torn right plantar fascia, but the Pacers have dropped two of three this week, including Friday night’s 107-94 defeat in Memphis.
Indiana has won three straight when topping 100 points, but a 3-for-21 performance from 3-point range prevented the Pacers from reaching that mark against Memphis. They were also outscored 56-38 in the second half with many of the Grizzlies’ points coming in the paint.
“I thought their bigs dominated our bigs,” coach Jim O’Brien said. “They just dominated our people inside. We could not stop their low-post game.”
Mike Dunleavy, who tied for the team lead with 16 points Friday, has averaged a team-best 19.2 points over the past five games but is scoring 14.0 points per game during the losing streak to San Antonio.
However, Dunleavy had a team-high 21 in the Pacers’ previous win over the Spurs on April 1, 2007.
Indiana hasn’t won in San Antonio since Jan. 4, 2002, and has dropped 10 of 11 there since the beginning of the 1997-98 season.
With his next win, Popovich will become the 17th coach in league history with 700 victories.