SAN ANTONIO (AP) - The San Antonio Spurs keep cruising behind what Tim Duncan says is a deeper team than even any during his four championship seasons.
Yet the old-timer certainly still deserves his share of credit.
Duncan had 23 points and 11 rebounds and the Spurs remained the hottest team in the NBA, beating the Indiana Pacers 112-103 for their seventh consecutive win and 10th in 11 games Saturday night.
A week that started with Duncan resting against Philadelphia - when ``DND-Old' was officially listed as the reason in the box score - ended with his fourth double-double in his last six games. Duncan, who turns 36 this month, has looked especially spry since that night off, averaging 22.3 points and 10 rebounds his last three games.
``I thought we finished the game very well,' said Duncan, who helped the Spurs thwart a late Indiana run. ``We did good with moving the ball and defensively we made the stops.'
Paul George and Danny Granger each scored 18 for Indiana. The Pacers have lost two of three while trying to break out of the logjammed East playoff picture and secure some home-court edge.
``The rest of our schedule is kind of tough. We don't have any days off in between back-to-backs and whatnot,' Granger said. ``We really have to close out these last 14 and 15 games and go 12-2, 12-3 - you know, something like that, to really get a lot of momentum going into the playoffs.'
The Spurs aren't budging in the standings, either. They're 2 1/2 games behind first-place Oklahoma City and remain stuck behind the similarly streaking Thunder.
Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili added 18 points apiece. The Spurs are 8-1 since making a rare plunge into midseason moves by adding forwards Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw, giving San Antonio a bench that has drawn raves from Duncan.
Gary Neal scored 11 points and Tiago Splitter added 10 as the Spurs showed off their newfound depth. Their bench outscored Indiana's 52-29.
``The more practice we get, the more we play together, I think we're realizing how deep this team is,' said Jackson, who scored eight points.
David West and Roy Hibbert scored 15 points apiece for the Pacers, and Tyler Hansbrough added 12 off the bench. Indiana shaved a 22-point deficit to get within seven points with 5 minutes to go, but the Spurs instantly answered with a 7-2 run in the span of about 1 1/2 minutes to put the game safely out of reach.
Hibbert, who worked out with Duncan in San Antonio during the lockout, said he has grown close to the perennial All-Star. On Friday, he texted Duncan and asked how he should guard him.
``He said, `Go for every pump fake,'' Hibbert said.
Jackson is averaging around 10 points off the bench since coming back to San Antonio in a trade-deadline deal with Golden State. Jackson proved essential to the Spurs during their title run in 2003, and they hope his return recaptures some of that magic while gunning for a fifth title in the Duncan era.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who doubles as team president, also bolstered his frontcourt this month by signing Diaw and added point guard Patty Mills. Seldom have the Spurs been so active on the NBA market in the middle of a season.
Popovich is counting on his new depth in the final month. The Spurs finish the season with 16 games in 23 days, including six back-to-backs. Popovich said he still isn't comfortable playing Ginobili on consecutive nights, since his playmaking guard has already missed more than half the season banged up.
Last season, Ginobili was hurt in a meaningless regular-season finale, which helped sink the Spurs in a stunning first-round playoff ouster. It's not a scenario Popovich wants to repeat - but his stars also resist sitting out.
``I always have to fight Manu and Timmy,' Popovich said before tipoff. ``I've won a couple battles.'
Notes: Diaw didn't play for the first time since signing with the Spurs on March 23 ... San Antonio has won nine in a row against the Pacers. ... The Spurs' 39-point second quarter was a season high.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved