Pacers-Spurs Preview By ALAN FERGUSON
While they haven't made it easy on themselves so far this season, the San Antonio Spurs have a chance to secure the best start in franchise history.
The Spurs will try to improve to 4-0 while continuing their dominance of the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.
San Antonio came from behind in the final minute to win its season opener, got a buzzer-beating game-winner from Tony Parker in its second game and needed a fourth-quarter recovery after blowing a 19-point lead Saturday against Utah.
The Jazz outscored the Spurs 35-17 in the third quarter to tie that game at 79 before San Antonio salvaged a 110-100 victory.
"We didn't panic. I thought we did a great job of sticking with what we were doing," forward Tim Duncan said.
After hitting a 21-foot jumper to beat Oklahoma City on Thursday, Parker had a team-leading 24 points and 10 assists versus Utah. The Spurs guard also made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 50 seconds left in a season-opening 99-95 victory at New Orleans on Wednesday, when Duncan added a pair of late free throws.
Those efforts have helped San Antonio open with three consecutive wins for the fourth time in franchise history. Even with four titles, the Spurs have never won their first four games.
They have a good chance considering their track record against the Pacers (2-1), which includes wins in the last nine matchups and 12 of 13. San Antonio has prevailed in 13 of 14 home meetings and 10 straight.
The Spurs won 112-103 in last season's lone matchup March 31 at the AT&T Center. Duncan had a game-high 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Parker and Manu Ginobili each had 18 points.
Ginobili missed three preseason games and the first two regular-season contests with back problems before scoring eight points in 16 minutes Saturday. His presence in this game could make a difference, especially because he's averaged 20.8 points on 53.8 percent shooting and made 19 of 42 (45.2 percent) from 3-point range in his last eight games against the Pacers.
Indiana, meanwhile, remains without the services of Danny Granger, who has averaged 23.4 points in his last five matchups with San Antonio.
With a sore left knee keeping their perennial scoring leader out indefinitely, the Pacers have relied on their defense. They're giving up 92.0 points per game on 36.3 percent shooting after allowing 94.4 in 2011-12 and 100.9 in 2010-11.
Despite taking Saturday's game into double overtime, Sacramento failed to reach the century mark against Indiana in a 106-98 defeat. A 67-47 rebounding advantage aided the Pacers in their home opener, as did David West's 18 points and 18 boards.
Paul George added 16 points and a career-high 17 rebounds to help his team bounce back from Friday's 90-89 loss at Charlotte. That defeat followed a 90-88 win over Toronto on Wednesday, when George Hill hit a tiebreaking shot with two seconds left.
"It's good for our team to know that in the tough situations, when we're not playing well, that we can continue to grind it out," Hill said. "I'm happy that we're learning in November instead of April or May."