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Spurs can't overcome slow start, lose to Pacers 99-91

The Spurs tried to rally after a dreadful first half but their comeback attempt fell short.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs couldn't overcome a slow start in Indiana and lost to the Pacers 99-91 on a game that came down to the wire. Despite shooting 34 percent for the night San Antonio could have escaped victorious had some late shots fallen. Monta Ellis led all scorers with 26 points while Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul George had 23 each.

It's hard to explain how incredibly poor the Spurs' shooting was in the first half. It was more than missed open three-pointers; not even point blank layups were going in for San Antonio. The offense was working, considering it's supposed to get players shots they are capable of hitting. Yet nothing was going in, no matter how seemingly easy the looks were. The Spurs shot 22 percent in the first quarter and 30 percent in the second, and watching the game I would have guessed an even lower field goal percentage. It was almost funny to see shots rim out time and time again.

Fortunately the defense was solid enough to prevent the Pacers from running away with it in the first half. Guards were dying on screens more often than they typically do and the big men were sometimes a step late, but the Pacers didn't get many easy shots. They simply made some tough ones and took advantage of San Antonio's uncharacteristic fouling to build a double digit lead. Their bench was also superior, which left the Spurs with no stretch in which to gather themselves and fight back.

After scoring a season low 32 first-half points and painting the court red, they were lucky to only be down 13 at the break.

First half shot chart vs. Pacers

The Spurs would only cut two points into the Pacers' lead in the entire third quarter, but things were different. The shots started to go in, and both the execution and the intensity were higher. Kawhi Leonard got the better of Paul George in their matchup for a while, LaMarcus Aldridge finally got some buckets and Manu Ginobili shut down Rodney Stuckey, who had hurt San Antonio in the first half.

Unfortunately, the more physical approach the Spur took on defense resulted in more free throws for Indiana. Monta Ellis and George looked for contact and got it. After getting in the bonus early, the Pacers went 10-for-10 from the line. Those freebies plus some transition opportunities were enough to counter a more focused Spurs' attack. It doesn't do much good to score 30 in a quarter of a game in which you are trailing if the opponent scores 28, as San Antonio found out.

Even on a night in which little had gone right, the Spurs gave themselves a chance to steal the game. The stars stepped up and the defense got tighter until they were trailing by just three points with 1:55 to go. A controversial call on Aldridge prevented a fastbreak for San Antonio. After Ellis got the lead back to five, Mills once again shaved two points from it. A stop followed but unfortunately, Patty couldn't convert after the timeout and once again Ellis made it a two-possession game with 26 seconds to go.

After some traded buckets and some free throws, the Pacers finally claimed the win.

Game notes

  • Tony Parker had to leave the game in the fourth quarter with a toe contusion. Hopefully he won't miss much time with it but it wouldn't be surprising to see him sit out Tuesday's game against the Timberwolves. Get ready for Andre Miller, starting point guard!

  • Manu Ginobili's second game back from surgery was essentially a 20-minute long heat check. After scoring 22 in 11 shots Manu was in attack mode, but couldn't replicate that performance, going 1-for-8 from the floor after forcing some shots. It's fine. It always takes him some time to get back in rhythm. 

  • Speaking of forcing things, Kawhi Leonard pushed at times. It was actually needed, as no one could make a bucket, but it's still strange to watch after seeing him defer on the first four seasons of his career.

    He went toe to toe with Paul George and had a couple of open threes gone in, he would have won the matchup. As it was, I'd call it a tie. 

  • I've never seen LaMarcus Aldridge miss as many easy shots as he missed in the first half. He redeemed himself in the final two quarters, playing good defense and scoring 17 second-half points, but for a stretch early he could not buy a bucket. Kudos for being persistent.  

  • It's the sixth time in the three-point line era that the Spurs attempt at least 25 outside shots while connecting on fewer than five. Second lowest three-point percentage overall on that many attempts. Danny Green went 0-for-5, Manu 0-for-4 and Leonard 1-for-7. Some of those were open, too. Weird game. 

  • Tim Duncan played a lot for his standards (28 minutes), so it's not surprising that David West and Boris Diaw didn't get more than 15 minutes each. It's still surprising to see Diaw's minutes fluctuate so much. He's back to being hesitant on offense and hasn't been a factor in a while. As well as West has performed this season, the Spurs need the Diaw from earlier in the year to show up again before the playoffs. 

  • Patty Mills was the only bench player who really contributed on offense. Mills scored 17 points in 13 shots and made three of the Spurs' four three-pointers. That's likely the reason why he got the shot to tie the game designed for him but unfortunately he missed. 

  • Kyle Anderson did well on the boards and got to the line. The potential is slowly turning into production. It will be interesting to see what happens to his minutes when Kevin Martin signs. 

  • Monta Ellis kills the Spurs. Always has, always will. After a quiet first half he exploded for 21 points in nine shots in the second. There's a case to be made that he was the reason why the comeback fell short. I, for one, I'm glad he's in the East now because the Spurs do not know how to stop him.

Up next

The Spurs will visit the Timberwolves on the second game of a back-to-back for both teams on Tuesday. Minnesota lost to the Hornets on Monday but the duo of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns combined for 53 points. Leonard and Aldridge will have their hands full with those two.

For the opponent perspective, visit Indy Cornrows.