Recap: Spurs' streak swells to 18 as they pound Pacers, 103-77

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs took on the league's best defense on Monday night and easily reached the century mark while playing excellent defense on their own end. The troubled Pacers failed to score 80 for the fifth time in six games.

This win felt inevitable to me all day. The Pacers sport a nice record, but most of that was built over the first 50 games of the season. It's clear to anyone paying attention to the league that the current Pacers are not the same team they were for much of the season. After tonight's rout, their average margin of victory over their last 20 games will fall below negative two. Defense hasn't been a problem for them, but they are struggling to score the ball as much as any other team in the league.

Meanwhile, over about the same span of time the Spurs are leading the league in just about everything:

That's pretty incredible. The team is playing about as well as a team can and dominating opponents along the way. They have a ridiculous road record of 29-8 (after Monday night's win,) which is the same as their record at home. The core trio of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili have battled opponents for over a decade together. They've had kids, gone bald, and gone grey in the beard along the way, They've won and lost hundreds of times together, thankfully many hundreds more wins than losses. All three of the guys are already a lock to make the Hall-of-Fame. The average age of the trio will be 35 when Duncan moves into his 39th year in late April. Time has marched on, but the Spurs have kept step along the way. So it's really strange to think,  after all these seasons, that this might be the greatest Spurs team ever.

That's just not how it is supposed to work. Even the best 37-year-olds the game has seen don't continue to best the competition the way Timmy has. 36-year-olds that were written off, even by longtime fans, don't bounce back the way Manu has. 31-year-old guards that have played professional basketball for 15 years and logged enormous amounts of postseason and international minutes don't dominate their younger competition on call the way that Tony seems to be able to.

There's not a one of us that would have believed someone that said in 2007 that this core trio would stay together and fall short for the next six seasons only to reel off the greatest win-streak in franchise history in 2014. That they would achieve a level of team-play that I've never seen before from any team.

There's been lots of talk about appreciating what we're seeing from this team, that it's special. It is special, and it certainly deserves appreciation, and I think that applies to the whole season. What the Spurs are doing with such a veteran core is totally unprecedented. I didn't do the work to show just how much, but I glanced at the previous championship teams, and this one would have the oldest lead-trio to win it if they do. By far.

18-straight wins is quite the run, and a treat for us fans. It gives what we've been seeing something tangible, an easy way to see that this is one hell of a team.  You don't need advanced metrics to see it and you don't have to use your eyes. It's a simple binary system. Did they win or lose? It's fun to watch something new in the Tim Duncan era. It's not often that we get to experience that anymore, not with all that basketball already played, all of those years that have passed. The first championship already seems a lifetime ago; even the last one exists in a far away time. A time before smart phones, before Kevin Durant, before any team put together anything looking like their current team. The Spurs have changed out many parts in the seven seasons since, but that core remains at the heart of it all, inevitably winning games, always with the Larry O'Brien as the goal.

Vegas opened the line for the game at Spurs by 2 1/2, and it quickly moved to four. Clearly that was well short, but to any fan that's been paying attention it should have seemed an easy proposition. This team was always going to easily win this one. Despite their records, and Indy's at home, these are certainly two teams moving in opposite directions.

This streak is fun; it's a sign this team is again ready to challenge for the title, and it's that title that means everything. The second season can't come soon enough, and this team will be ready. Ready to turn a good look into a great look, to lock down opponents defensively as the game shifts to a slower halfcourt game, and to win. To win as a team. It's time for the trophy to come back to San Antonio, she's been away too long. This team is primed, perhaps more so than any other Spurs team, to win the whole thing. This streak, while something that we shouldn't just look over because that's the line the team keeps giving us, is just a small part of the story that the boys are writing. The real stuff starts in 18 days.

The Game:

Yes, there was a game on Monday night. From the comfortable chair at my desk I watched the whole thing, and never once did the feeling of an inevitable win leave me. The game looked like all of the other 17 games during the streak before this one. The Spurs are in a class above. It's going to take an outstanding game from their opponent to stop this run. I thought that the game in OKC on Thursday could be taken as a schedule loss, but the way this team is playing, I'm open to the idea that the Spurs can pull that one out as well.

There was some good defense from both teams in this game, but the Spurs were the only team that could string together effective offense for any meaningful stretch. The Spurs were able to take a 25-15 lead after the first quarter and they stretched it to a 13 point advantage at halftime. In short, they looked like a much better team than Indiana. Indiana played the passing lanes and disrupted several passes from the Spurs, but the good guys only turned the ball over eight times for the entire game. Indiana took care of the ball as well, but they couldn't get anything to go as they shot an icy 37.7% from the floor in this one. They had some open looks, but mostly missed them.

The second half saw Indiana make a couple of runs. The third quarter was pretty even, with the Pacers cutting the Spurs' lead to 10 at 69-59 going into the fourth. Indy cut the once 17-point lead to just seven one minute into the fourth, but the Spurs responded with some nice play. At the halfway point of the period the squad was up 85-69 and this game was over. Popovich left the starters in for two and a half more minutes as San Antonio pushed their lead to 92-71. The teams had to finish playing the game and the good guys got onto their plane one game closer to the overall top-seed in the league with their 58-16 record.

From my comfortable chair this team looks like a champion. There's still quite a journey before they can hopefully bring it home, but they're as prepared for the trek to the top as any Spurs team I've seen. This is going to be a fun ride. Oh, I almost forgot. This team is so easy to root for.

Notes:

  • Three players shot 50% or better for the Pacers tonight, with Rasuel Butler, George Hill, and Ian Mahinmi combining to go 6-for-10. They're in a mess of trouble and the once inevitable Eastern Conference Finals of Miami and Indiana no longer seems to be a shoe-in.
  • Tony Parker showed up for this contest. After scoring just 16 combined points in the last three games, the Parisian Torpedo dropped 22 on Indiana on 55.5% shooting. More importantly, he showed us that it was just boredom that was keeping him from being the guy the team needs him to be. He also had four dimes and just one turnover.
  • Tim Duncan wasn't able to continue his Western Conference Player of the Week run into this game, as he was just 3-of-10 in this one, but he did grab some boards, helped out with four assists, and blocked three shots. This team is so deep that we can't expect all of the guys to be great every night.
  • My man Boris Diaw had himself a nice outing. It was good to see after almost a month of Boris the Meek. I thought he needed a recharge as he seemed to be suffering from low batteries, but with the enigma that is Boris, who knows what shook him out of his funk. He had 14 tonight with four rebounds and four assists with no turnovers.The Spurs went to him in the post for a stretch and he was more than up for the challenge.
  • Kawhi Leonard just won't stop. He put up 13 points, grabbed a whopping 11 rebounds, and had a couple of assists to go with a steal and a block. The kid is tremendous, and this team is something else.

Up Next:

The Spurs take on the Golden State Warriors in San Antonio on Wednesday as they try to make it 19 wins in a row. I'm going to say they win that one and go for 20 against the Thunder on Thursday.

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