Duncan, Ginobili push Spurs past Pacers in opener
SAN ANTONIO (AP) If this is the last go-around for San Antonio's Big Three, they got off to a familiar-looking start together.
``I think we're going to see that a lot this year,'' said Spurs guard Tony Parker, beginning the final season of his contract.
The Spurs hope so.
Tim Duncan had 23 points and 12 rebounds, Manu Ginobili scored 22 points and Parker had 20, pushing the Spurs past a shaky defensive performance and the Indiana Pacers in a 122-109 victory on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams.
San Antonio blew an early double-digit lead and didn't shake off the Pacers for good until the fourth quarter. It came after what was apparently a stern wake-up call about defense from coach Gregg Popovich at halftime.
``He was not really happy,'' Parker said. ``I'll leave it at that.''
Added Duncan, ``We don't want to give up 100-plus every night.''
Roy Hibbert led Indiana with 28 points and Danny Granger had 26. Darren Collison scored 19 points in his debut for the Pacers.
``We went stagnant on offense,'' Granger said. ``We froze.''
The Pacers, coming off a dreadful 32-win season, showed promise before squandering a close game. They erased an early 10-point deficit thanks to Hibbert, who was 10 of 17 from the field, and carried a slim lead late into the third.
But the Spurs pulled away in the fourth.
Richard Jefferson opened the final quarter with a 3-pointer from the corner, and after Mike Dunleavy missed two free throws that would have tied the game, Ginobili gave the Spurs momentum for good with another 3-pointer.
Ginobili was 5 of 9 from behind the 3-point line in a familiar Big Three-led win for the Spurs. How much longer the championship trio will be together is in doubt with Parker's contract situation, though the star point guard has repeatedly said he wants to remain in San Antonio.
No longer among the NBA favorites, the Spurs are mindful of beating the teams they should beat and not falling behind early in the West. San Antonio labored out of the gate with an overhauled roster last year and doesn't want to be so patient this time.
``All three played pretty well for the first game of the season,'' Ginobili said. ``And when that happens, everything becomes better.''
Collison was 7 of 13 and had seven assists. The Pacers hope they've found their point guard after years of shuffling at the position, acquiring the New Orleans point guard who filled in for Chris Paul when Hornets star was injured last season.
Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said Collison had a nice game for having his hands full with Parker.
He also praised Hibbert, but the third-year center wasn't as satisfied with himself.
``I really feel like I let the team down,'' Hibbert said. ``I let Tim get going in the fourth quarter and they solidified their run. Offensively I feel like I'm coming into my own, but defensively I need to get better.''
Unlike the Pacers and Collison, the Spurs didn't get to show off their prized new addition. Brazilian 7-footer Tiago Splitter watched from the bench in street clothes while continuing to nurse a calf sprain he got just three days into training camp.
Popovich said before the game that Splitter would likely miss Saturday's game against New Orleans but would probably play Monday at the Los Angeles Clippers.
``He's quite frustrated,'' Popovich said.
Even without Splitter, the Spurs still unveiled a change in their frontcourt, starting DeJuan Blair at center. Blair was a 6-7 spark plug off the bench as a rookie a year ago, but his debut as an opening-night starter was shaky.
Blair had nine points on just 2-of-9 shooting and three rebounds. He was the youngest opening-night starter for the Spurs since Parker was 20 in 2002.
Notes: Spurs F Matt Bonner sprained his ankle in the third quarter and did not return. ... Popovich improved to 13-1 in season openers with the Spurs. ... The Pacers have lost seven straight to San Antonio.