Poor defense is to blame for the San Antonio Spurs' first losing streak of the season. Facing a team that has struggled offensively lately could be just what they need to get back on track.
The Spurs look to avoid losing three straight for the first time since last January when they try for their eighth straight victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.
San Antonio (29-6) has dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season, putting up two of its worst defensive efforts in back-to-back road losses to New York and Boston.
After a 128-115 loss to the Knicks on Tuesday in which coach Gregg Popovich described he defense as "pathetic," the Spurs allowed the Celtics to shoot 61.5 percent in a 105-103 loss Wednesday. It was the highest shooting percentage by a San Antonio opponent since the Los Angeles Lakers shot 62.1 percent in 1988.
Despite those poor defensive efforts, San Antonio still has the NBA's best record - not that that is much comfort to the team.
"We're not satisfied with where we are, and honestly, I don't really care what our record is," said Tim Duncan, who had 18 points Wednesday. "(With) the kind of defense we're playing, we're definitely not satisfied where we are right now."
The Spurs, who gave up 72 first-half points to the Knicks and 27 first-quarter points to the Celtics, have especially had trouble defending in the backcourt. New York's Raymond Felton scored 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting and Boston's Ray Allen had 31 on 13 of 16. Rajon Rondo also had a triple-double with 22 assists.
This stretch is particularly frustrating since San Antonio relied heavily on its defense during a four-game winning streak prior to the last two games. It gave up 82.3 points during that stretch.
While the Spurs have been discouraged by their recent defense, they may have an easier time containing Indiana (14-18), which lost for the fourth time in five games with a 98-92 defeat at New York on Sunday. The Pacers have averaged 90.3 points in their last seven games while shooting 39.4 percent.
They were held to 37.4 percent from the field Sunday. Danny Granger had 25 points and a career-high 17 rebounds, while Darren Collison added 22 points. Indiana scored 15 points in the final period after missing 16 of 23 field-goal attempts.
"We didn't finish this one well," said Granger, whose shooting struggles continued as he finished 9 of 23 from the floor. "You can always work to get better, we just turned the ball over down the stretch too many times."
Granger is shooting 36.8 percent in the last seven games and has eight turnovers in the last two contests. However he's been sharp in his last three contests against the Spurs, averaging 28 points on 55 percent shooting.
San Antonio has won seven straight over Indiana, including a season-opening 122-109 victory at home Oct. 27. The Spurs have also won three in a row at Conseco Fieldhouse, holding the Pacers to fewer than 90 points in two of those victories.