The San Antonio Spurs look to become the NBA's only four- win team tonight when they host the Indiana Pacers at the AT&T Center.
The Spurs toppled the Utah Jazz, 110-100, on Saturday night in a rematch of last season's first-round playoff matchup. With wins against the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Hornets, the Spurs are already the only team in the league with three wins and will be looking for the first 4-0 start in team history.
The Spurs earned last-second victories against New Orleans and Oklahoma City, but the win against the Jazz was more balanced. After a disastrous third quarter that saw San Antonio get outscored, 35-17, the Spurs won the fourth quarter 31-21 for the 10-point victory.
"Our guys were really embarrassed by that," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of his team's third-quarter performance. "Together playing good individual and team defense; holding them to 21 (points) was the key and they knew it. I thought our guys really executed in the fourth quarter."
Perhaps more important than any victory on Saturday was the return of Manu Ginobili to the lineup. The Argentinean star didn't even play 16 minutes, but had eight points, two rebounds and two assists and Popovich indicated after the game that Ginobili was able to return to the game if needed late in the fourth quarter.
"Of course, very satisfied that I was able to play for a few minutes," said Ginobili, who missed the first two games of the season with a nagging back issue. "I felt better than I expected. I'm a little out of rhythm."
The Pacers come to San Antonio after some very hard-fought nights lately. On Friday, the Pacers fell to the Charlotte Bobcats, 90-89, in Charlotte, then needed two overtimes to dispatch the Sacramento Kings in their home-opener, 106-98.
"Not the prettiest game in the world but we got a W," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said after the overtime win. "Like early last season our defense is carrying us. For the most part, we got stops on the defensive end and that���s the more important thing."
With due respect, the Bobcats and Kings don't figure to be playoff contenders in their respective conferences. The Pacers do, and maybe the absence of Danny Granger has hurt more than anticipated, even against some of the NBA's lesser teams.
And Granger, a former All-Star, isn't expected back in the near future.
"It's going to be a couple days for them to gather all the information and make a decision on a course of action," said Vogel.
These games are also taking a toll on the starters. David West, Roy Hibbert, Paul George and George Hill each played over 43 minutes on Saturday. The Pacers also are the only team in the league averaging more than 20 turnovers a game.
The Spurs have won the last nine matchups and the Pacers haven't beaten San Antonio since April 1, 2007. Indiana hasn't won in San Antonio since Jan. 4, 2002, losing its last 10 trips to the Alamo City.