Pacers take control early, surprise Spurs with 99-91 victory
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Three-time All-Star Paul George took it upon himself to chart the Pacers' course Monday night.
He knew a win over one of the league's best teams would give the Pacers a boost of confidence. He understood how lopsided the series with San Antonio had been. And, most important, he realized he had to play much better than he did at San Antonio.
Monta Ellis scored 26 points and George finished with 23, including a three-point play with 15.7 seconds to go, to help the Pacers hang on for a 99-91 victory that ended the Spurs' eight-game winning streak.
''We were just dialed in, we were very focused tonight. That's why we won,'' George said. ''It just came down to you know, I know I needed a better effort for us to win tonight.''
It was a stark contrast to this season's first meeting between the old ABA rivals, which San Antonio won 106-92.
Back then, George struggled through his worst game of the season, going 1 of 14 from the field and 1 of 5 on 3-pointers. On Monday, George was 7 of 20 from the field, 2 of 5 on 3s and made all seven of his free throws.
The difference was obvious.
Indiana led by double digits most of the game and hung on after San Antonio cut the deficit to three several times in the final 2 minutes. It was the Pacers' second win in 17 meetings with the Spurs since 2008.
''We know if we don't put a perfect game together, we don't have a shot at winning,'' George said. ''I think that's what really locks us in.''
The loss came hours after the Spurs announced coach Gregg Popovich stayed home because of a ''family medical situation.'' A team spokesman did not provide additional details about Popovich's absence.
Without him, the Spurs missed 14 of their first 15 3s, shot a season-low 35.4 percent from the field and spent most of the night playing catch-up.
Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge led San Antonio with 23 points apiece.
''We were getting some good looks, it just happens sometimes,'' said Ettore Messina, Popovich's replacement. ''We were just not as sharp as we could have been.''
The Pacers made them pay for it, taking the lead with a 14-0 first-quarter run and pushing it to much as 16 in the second quarter. They didn't allow the Spurs to get closer than five until less than 2 minutes to go.
Alrdidge's two free throws with 1:55 left made it 90-87. San Antonio got within three two more times, but Ellis scored on a layup with 26 seconds to play and George followed that with his three-point play to seal it.
Popovich is also expected to miss Tuesday night's game at Minnesota. He is expected to return to the bench Thursday night when the Spurs host Chicago.
After Indiana announced earlier Monday that it had signed troubled point guard Ty Lawson, the 5-foot-11 veteran made his Pacers debut. It didn't last long. He played five minutes and left after landing awkwardly on his only shot, a driving layup. He did not return with a sprained left foot and the team said he would be re-evaluated in the next 48 hours.
The Spurs' worst shooting performance this season came on a night they took a season-high 96 shots. They wound up 4 of 28 on 3s, had their worst scoring quarter of the season (13 in the first) and half of their rebounds came from two players - Tim Duncan with 14 and Aldridge with 12.
Spurs: San Antonio still has the best record (53-10) in franchise history after 63 games.... Duncan has 14,998 rebounds in his career. ... Tony Parker left with a bruised left toe in the second half and did not return. ... The loss also ended San Antonio's six-game winning streak on the road.
Pacers: George was 2 of 5 on 3s, making him 175 of 461 this season as he nears Reggie Miller's marks for No. 5 on the Pacers' single-season lists in both categories. Miller made 180 3s in 2001-02 and attempted 464 in 2000-01. ... The Pacers had a moment of silence before the National Anthem in honor of former first lady Nancy Reagan, who died Sunday. ... Indiana University guard Kevin ''Yogi'' Ferrell drew loud applause when he was shown on the big screen television.
Spurs: Travel to Minnesota on Tuesday.
Pacers: Travel to Dallas on Saturday.