San Antonio Spurs vs. Indiana PacersAT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
December 7, 2013, 7:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW- RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI
A clash of NBA titans takes place tonight in San Antonio as the 15-3 Spurs take on the 17-2 Indiana Pacers in the first of the "biggest game of the Spurs' season" contests this regular season. We've seen the Spurs not take these types of regular season matchups as seriously as the league offices may like, but this game should provide a better look at how good both teams are entering the Christmas season.
The Pacers are one of the two only teams in the Eastern Conference that appear to have any chance of making it to the Finals. It is a dismal conference, but the cream of the crop just may be the Pacers, despite the Miami Heat coming off three-straight NBA Finals appearances and back-to-back NBA Championships. Why? Indiana is the best defensive team in the league, holding opponents to a league-best 87.5 points per game. It is a methodical, crisp team that Spurs fans of old should appreciate.
For Indiana it all starts with their budding superstar, Paul George. In a league full of star small forwards, George appears to be the heir to the crown in the East. He is averaging 24.6 points, over five rebounds and two steals a game this season in 36.5 minutes per game. His backcourt teammate George Hill missed three games with an injury, but has rebounded and recorded 30 minutes of play the last time out. Lance Stephenson has provided quality minutes for Indiana next to Hill, doing a bit of everything with a 12/6/5 line.
While their backcourt is a quality one, it is their size and depth that makes the Pacers a team to fear. The post duo of David West and Roy Hibbert both average over 12 points and 7 rebounds, and Hibbert leads the team with 9.1 rebounds a game and 3.4 blocks. In a league devoid of natural centers, Hibbert reigns supreme around the basket on the defensive end. Opponents tend to get sucked into jump-shooting competitions on the offensive side of the floor against Indiana because of the difficulty Hibbert and Co. present around the basket. The length and athleticism of the whole team makes for a group that plays strong individual and team defense.
The bench is impressive, as well. Luis Scola and C.J. Watson have provided quality minutes and some scoring off of the bench, while Ian Mahinmi gives Indiana a reason to give Hibbert rest.
Matchup to watch: It is usually the Spurs that enter games as the most-feared defense on the court. I'm normally more interested in how a team will attack the Spurs more so than the other way around. Not in this game, however. If the Spurs can hit mid-range to outside jump shots in this game not much will change for the San Antonio offense, but if those shots aren't falling it will be interesting to see how Popovich tries to attack the forest of trees waiting around the basket when Hibbert is on the floor.
Pacers perspective can be found here: Indy Cornrows
Game Prediction: Spurs by 2.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.
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