Spurs 90, Pacers 72

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SAN ANTONIO (AP)—Tim Duncan showed his teammates how they need to play to regain the form they had during the Spurs’ recent 13-game winning streak.

Duncan scored 27 points, 19 in the first half, to lead San Antonio to a 90-72 victory over the slumping Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.

“I thought Timmy was very focused tonight,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He was very aggressive with the ball. He wasn’t looking for other people and worrying about getting other people involved. He just was demonstrative offensively.”

The Spurs, who have clinched a playoff spot, snapped a two-game losing streak that came after they had won a season-high 13 in a row.

Francisco Elson had a season-high 14 points, and Tony Parker and Matt Bonner added 10 apiece.

Ike Diogu scored 14 points for the Pacers, who fell apart after point guard Jamaal Tinsley was ejected. Mike Dunleavy scored 11, and Jermaine O’Neal and Troy Murphy each added 10.

The Pacers snapped an 11-game losing streak with a home victory over Atlanta on Saturday, but have since lost two in a row as they struggle for a spot in the playoffs.

O’Neal was expected to miss the game with a sore left knee he injured in the Pacers’ loss to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, but started anyway. O’Neal already had missed three games after an MRI earlier this month revealed a sprain in the knee.

“I don’t think Jermaine’s 100 percent,” Popovich said. “You had to factor that in. He’s trying to play through it. We caught a break there.”

At least once on Wednesday, O’Neal looked as if his knee was bothering him. He said the injury is keeping him from being effective.

“I played on one leg today,” O’Neal said. “My explosion is pretty much zapped.”

The Pacers outshot the Spurs in the first quarter and built a five-point lead heading into the second following a 9-2 run to close the quarter.

But then the Pacers ran into trouble, as O’Neal picked up his third foul with 7:55 left in the second and sat the rest of the half. Tinsley picked up his second foul 34 seconds later and it only got worse from there.

Jeff Foster stole the ball from Parker and passed to Tinsley, who went up against Duncan and got whistled for an offensive foul. Tinsley angrily grabbed the ball and rocketed it in a high arc from one end of the court to the other, where it landed in the first row. He was ejected with 3:59 left in the half and had six points.

“It’s obviously something we can’t have happen to us, because he’s too important a player for us,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “It just speaks for itself. He knows after the fact that we need him out there.”

In the meantime, Duncan was helping the Spurs pull away. When posted under the basket he put it in for a quick score. If he couldn’t see anyone, he pulled up and hit the jumper. If he saw a teammate, like Bonner, in a better position, he completed the quick pass.

“I just tried to be more aggressive,” said Duncan, who was 11-of-16 from the field. “It was just that kind of game where everything was kind of dead. I just thought I had an opportunity to be more aggressive and get some shots to go down and I just played it from there.”

Duncan had 19 points at the half and quickly added four more early in the third.

Manu Ginobili’s 3-pointer from the corner with 6:58 left in the third as the shot clock wound down followed a missed dunk by O’Neal, who went 2-of-6 in the quarter.

Then, with 6:38 left in the period, Elson’s dunk gave the Spurs a 10-point lead, which they doubled by the end of the quarter.

The Pacers got no closer than 16 in the fourth.

Both teams are looking ahead to their upcoming matchups.

Duncan said Friday’s game against the Eastern Conference-best Detroit Pistons will be a good test for the playoffs.

“They will push us to another level and we need to play on that level consistently,” he said.

The Pacers are just glad for the break.

“We’re all real grateful that we’ve got spacing over the next three games,” Carlisle said. “With 14 to go, we’ve got to get people as fresh as possible. It’s been a challenge for us.”

Notes

The Spurs scored just 17 points in the first quarter, only two above their season low, which they got last week against the Celtics. … The Spurs have won five straight at home against Indiana. … The Spurs face the Pacers on April 1 in Indiana. … Both teams had trouble from 3-point range. The Pacers were 0-of-5 and the Spurs went 3-of-15. … The Pacers had just 10 assists Wednesday.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Indiana
I. Diogu I. Diogu
3-7,  14 Pts
9 Rebs, 0 Assists
 San Antonio
T. Duncan T. Duncan
11-16,  27 Pts
7 Rebs, 3 Assists

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Wednesday, Mar 21