While other teams have received much of the attention this season as championship contenders, the San Antonio Spurs have continued to quietly pile up victories.

The Spurs look to extend their winning streak to seven games when they visit the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.

Dallas is approaching a 70-win pace and has been nearly unbeatable this season, while Phoenix's high-powered offense has again dazzled onlookers, but the Spurs (52-20) have steadily moved themselves into position to challenge for one of the West's top seeds.

While the Mavericks are nine games ahead of San Antonio in the Southwest Division and Western Conference races and likely won't be caught, the Spurs have won 19 of their last 21 to pull within two games of Phoenix for the second seed in the West.

"There are things you want to do going into the playoffs, as compared to limping into the playoffs and saying 'We'll get it together once we start," Spurs forward Bruce Bowen said. "It's not about turning on a light or turning it off. It's about preparing for it right now, so that once that time comes, you're prepared for whatever happens."

San Antonio is the NBA's best defensive team at 89.4 points allowed per game, and the Spurs has been even better over the last 21 contests. Since beating New Jersey 107-82 on Feb. 13 to start this dominant stretch, they have given up 84.4 points a game and defeated opponents by an average of 14.0 points.

San Antonio beat Utah 102-93 on Friday, allowing its highest point total during the six-game winning streak, but turned in another fine offensive effort with 52 percent shooting from the field. The Spurs led by as many as 16 against the Northwest Division champion Jazz and got 25 points from Manu Ginobili off the bench.

"I'm thrilled," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "It was a fine win for us. A good performance from beginning to end against a very, very good basketball team that we respect very much."

San Antonio, which begins a five-game homestand after Sunday's contest, defeated Indiana 90-72 at home March 21 for its third straight win in the series. The Spurs have won 10 of the past 13 against the Pacers, who continue to fall further behind in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Despite the return of Jermaine O'Neal, who missed Wednesday's loss to New Jersey with left knee and ankle sprains, Indiana lost 95-87 to Orlando on Friday night for its fourth straight defeat.

The Magic are one of several teams, along with the Pacers, competing for the final two playoff spots in the East. If the season ended today, Indiana would be sitting out the postseason for the first time in 10 years.

"It's not really about what other teams are doing," said O'Neal, harassed by Orlando's Dwight Howard into 4-for-18 shooting and eight turnovers. "It's about what we're doing. Or a better way to put it, what we're not doing to win games."

The Pacers (31-41) have lost 17 of their last 19, an alarming slide for a team that hasn't missed the postseason since 1996-97, its only time out of the playoffs since 1989.

"Every question is probably a good question as to why we are not winning," O'Neal said. "There are a lot of reasons as to why we are not winning. There is no consolation for hanging around in a game and no consolation after a close game."

Indiana, which plays three of its next four at home, has lost six of the previous eight at Conseco Fieldhouse.


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