Spurs - Pacers Preview
In this compressed NBA season, there's plenty of concern about player fatigue.
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is taking advantage of his team's depth to prevent that from happening.
The Spurs look to extend their winning streak to seven Saturday night when the visiting Indiana Pacers try to avoid a ninth consecutive loss in this series.
With 66 games scheduled in four months, teams have been playing back-to-back-to-back sets and getting very little practice time. Despite those obstacles, the Spurs (35-14) have risen to the top of the Southwest Division and are three games back of Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City.
A major reason for that success is San Antonio's depth, which enables Popovich to rely less on stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
While they improved to 13-4 with those three in the lineup with Wednesday's 117-112 victory at Sacramento, the Spurs have been getting plenty of production from others.
Rookie Kawhi Leonard is averaging 13.3 points during the six-game win streak, third-year players DeJuan Blair (11.7) and Danny Green (9.3) are also playing well, and second-year guard Gary Neal is scoring 9.8 per game over that span.
Former Pacer Stephen Jackson leads the Spurs' bench players with 55 points during the run.
"We didn't have this kind of depth last year," said Popovich, whose team has won nine of 10. "Our young players allow us not to overplay our veterans like Timmy and Tony. But down the stretch tonight I thought our experience really showed."
The Spurs have plenty of experience winning on their own court, going 20-4 at AT&T Center, and they'll go for a 10th straight home win over the Pacers.
Indiana (30-20) ended a stretch of seven games in 10 days with Thursday's 93-89 victory over Washington. The Pacers trailed by as many as eight in the third quarter and shot 39.2 percent for the game.
"It was a tough night, but I thought our guys tried to get through it and defend," coach Frank Vogel said after earning his 50th NBA victory. "I think our guys are a little fatigued and give them credit.
"... We've got to recognize when they need a day off and they'll get one tomorrow."
The Pacers, though, can't relax, as they are percentage points ahead of sixth-place Atlanta in the East and could open the playoffs on the road if they don't make a push over the final four weeks.
"All we have to do is to continue to fight every night and not let down," reserve guard George Hill said Thursday after scoring 14 points.
Hill will face his former team for the first time Saturday after being part of last summer's deal that sent Pacers first-round pick Leonard to San Antonio.
Leonard had 19 points and nine rebounds Wednesday and is averaging 8.3 boards during San Antonio's surge.
The Spurs' last loss in this series was 100-99 in Indianapolis on April 1, 2007.
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