Pacers beat Spurs in battle of elites

Danny Sanchez, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SAN ANTONIO -- The Indiana Pacers came into Saturday's contest with the San Antonio Spurs ready to validate their record against a team that has their number.
In the process, they overcame a slow start and got their biggest win of the season.
Forward Paul George had 28 points and six assists to lead the Pacers to a 111-100 victory over the Spurs in a battle between the top teams in their respective conferences.
George was perfect from the 3-point line (4 of 4) and the free throw line (6 of 6).
Indiana (18-2) boasts the best record in the league but had lost 11 straight games to the Spurs with their last win in San Antonio on Jan. 4, 2002.
"We knew we were playing at a high level," George stated. "Against this team (San Antonio) you got to play near perfect to win. I wouldn't say we were perfect, but we can all sit back and be happy about the way we played offensively. We played with poise. We shared the ball. It's easy when you share the ball to knock shots down."
The Pacers, who shot 54 percent from the field, had five other players in double figures. All starters scored, including forward David West with 20 points, center Roy Hibbert with 12 (10 rebounds), and guards Lance Stephenson with 15 and George Hill with 12. Forward Luis Scola added 12 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
San Antonio (15-4) was led by forward Kawhi Leonard with 18 points. Guards Manu Gilobili added 16 points, Tony Parker 13, Patty Mills 10 and forward Tim Duncan 10 for the Spurs, who had not played since Monday's win over the Atlanta Hawks.
Center Tiago Splitter did not play the second half, held out with tightness in his left calf. He had two points.
"We missed Tiago, but they outplayed us," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich stated after the game. "They (Pacers) got a good win and they earned it."
The highly anticipated matchup lived up to its billing early as both teams traded leads. San Antonio shot 55 percent from the field in the first quarter to jump on top early, 28-20.
The Spurs looked to be in control until Indiana erased the Spurs 13-point lead in the second quarter from San Antonio. From midway on, the Pacers outscored San Antonio 30-13 to take a 52-48 halftime lead.
George had 11 of his 17 first-half points in the second quarter.
Indiana extended its lead to 26 points in the fourth quarter when Scola connected on two free throws to make it 99-73 with 7:40 to play.
"Yeah, I think so," Pacers coach Frank Vogel responded when asked whether this was the best the Pacers have played all season. "You have to play great to beat this (San Antonio) basketball team, especially here and we did in the second and third quarter. We were operating on al cylinders."
San Antonio cut the lead to 10 points on a Mills 3-pointer with a minute and half left, but there was not enough time get the lead back for the Spurs, who suffered their second loss at home.
"They were great," Duncan said of the bench play. "That's the energy we needed all night that we didn't have. We didn't sustain it for long enough, so those guys came in and ended the game the right way and played hard."
The Pacers, in their first game of a back-to-back, will play Oklahoma City on Sunday.
NOTES: The Pacers are the top defensive team in the NBA. They are allowing a league low in points (87.5) and field goal percentage (39.5) per game. .... Pacers G George Hill played three seasons (2008-11) for the Spurs before being traded to Indiana in June 2011. San Antonio received the draft rights to three players in the deal, including F Kawhi Leonard. ... The Spurs entered the game with a 15-3 record through an all-around team effort. No San Antonio player on the roster is in the top 25 in points and rebounds and only one player (G Tony Parker) is averaging more than 30 minutes a game. ... With his third bucket in the first quarter, F Tim Duncan became the 21st player in NBA history to score 24,000 points in his career. ... San Antonio was scheduled to play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday in Mexico City, but smoky conditions in the arena caused the game to be postponed. That game will be made up at a later date.

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