The postseason has started early for the Indiana Pacers, who are bringing a sense of urgency into their final 19 games of the regular season.
Indiana looks to continue its upward trend when it visits the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday. The Spurs snapped a 16-game losing streak with a 102-94 win over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday.
Indiana recorded its second straight win on Tuesday with an impressive 124-122 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Tyrese Haliburton scored 32 points to lead the Pacers, while Myles Turner added 24.
Time is of the essence for Indiana, which sits two games out of 10th place and a spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.
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"We're battling ourselves for a playoff spot," Turner said. "Our playoffs started right after the All-Star break. Every game matters for us, and I think we're going out there and playing like it."
Turner has been leading the team's recent charge. The 6-foot-11 center is averaging 29.3 points per game on 69.3 percent shooting in three games since the All-Star break. He made 10 of 13 field goals in Tuesday's win.
"Man, he's playing amazing," Haliburton said. "I don't know what he did during All-Star break, but he has to keep doing what he did there. Today was the first time he got on me to get him the ball. I like that. I'm going to get you the ball. Go score."
The Pacers have also received a spark from forward Jordan Nwora, who was acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 9. He had 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting with eight rebounds and six assists in Saturday's 128-108 win over the Orlando Magic.
Indiana is looking to avenge a 137-134 loss to San Antonio in the second game of the season on Oct. 21. The Spurs never trailed in the contest.
San Antonio beat Utah on Tuesday for its first road win since mid-December. Keldon Johnson scored 25 points, Doug McDermott added 19 and Jeremy Sochan had 13.
Johnson is averaging 21.8 points this season for the Spurs. He scored four points in the final minute to seal the victory over the Jazz.
"I wanted to win," Johnson said. "I feel like I had it going a little bit. I thought I'd make the right play. My coach and teammates trusted me. They put the ball in my hands. They trusted me to make the right decision."
San Antonio turned in one of its best defensive efforts of the season against Utah, which shot a season-low 35.3 percent from the field. The Spurs also won for the first time this season after trailing to start the fourth quarter.
"They played 48 minutes," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "It obviously wasn't perfect. It never is. But watching them give that effort for 48 was very satisfying."
Popovich has been encouraged by the development of rookie guard Blake Wesley, who has made a case for more playing time while averaging 7.3 points on 7-of-17 shooting over his last three games.
--Field Level Media