At around 3 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon, I peeked out the sixth floor window of my office building, to a sheet of rain clouds that had settled over South Texas since what feels like mid-July, drew my shoulder blades back, and let out the kind of jowly yawn that’s only socially acceptable in the few moments after you wake up. It was completely involuntary, not terribly gratifying, and prompted someone passing by to make a chilling comment about it being Hump Day. And then I yawned again.
I was thus able to relate more than I’d have liked to the Spurs’ dispirited performance later that night. With LaMarcus Aldridge airballing 16-footers and DeMar DeRozan weaving and pirouetting directly into the stationary arms of Domantas Sabonis, there was a discernible oomph missing from the team that anyone who’s hit a 3pm wall knows all too well. The Good Guys were sluggish on D, couldn’t muster the offensive punch they showed two days earlier in their 143-142 shootout against LA, and generally seemed to sleepwalk through sets on both sides of the floor.
While the 93-possession pace was right up San Antonio’s alley, it was the Pacers who were most comfortable executing in the half-court and methodically picking the Spurs’ defense apart. Victor Oladipo led the way for the visitors with an efficient 21, 9 and 5, but they also got contributions from Tyreke Evans (19 points and 5 assists), Sabonis (16, 10 and 4), and former Spur Cory Joseph (12 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists).
To no one’s surprise, Pop’s focus after the game was on one particular area of the ball:
“We’re defensively challenged, so to speak. Until we figure it out, there’s a lot of habits that have to be formed. [We have to] find out what groups do it best. So, it’ll take some time, but they are a willing group.”
Indeed the Spurs seemed to concede shots to Indiana at all spots of the floor, offering little resistance in the pick and roll and getting worn down by a patient Indiana team that didn’t mind burning the shot clock down before finding a look they liked. The Pacers knocked down 8 of their first 9 from deep, ultimately finishing 17 of 32, and benefited from a 59-35 advantage from their bench. Nate McMillan’s team is good, if not very good, and certainly not the type of group a team like the Spurs can afford to sleep on — their margin of error is too thin right now.
Was there a carryover from Monday night’s win in LA? Bryn Forbes (15 points, 4 assists) wasn’t out to make excuses, but he didn’t say no, either.
“When you win an overtime game, a close one like that, a lot of guys played a lot of minutes. So, I think that played a huge part in us coming out flat, but also we need to be able to bounce back. That’s gonna be a big thing this season with all the injuries.”
Marco Belinelli (16 points on 5 of 11 shooting) felt the same regarding the team’s effort and focus, saying they “didn’t come ready to play tonight.”
There are a number of new pieces to this roster, though, and subpar efforts afflict every team at one point or another in the season. DeRozan didn’t talk down the work that’s ahead of them, but he doesn’t mind that an effort like this is happening in October rather than March or April:
“It’s a new group. Once we understand our principles defensively, we’ll be fine . . . We’re not even giving ourselves a chance offensively . . . We’re getting the ball out of our basket every single time. Once we slow things down, rely on our defense, easy things start to come. Four games in, it sucks to lose, but at the same time, it’s a bonus that it’s now, and we can get better at it.”
It’s a level-headed — and very Spursy — reaction to a 20-point loss, and one of the many ways that the former Raptor is a seamless fit in black and silver. DeRozan knows this team can bounce back, and that things can only improve as chemistry is developed and the parts fall into place. It could be because it’s Thursday now, or the suddenly abundant amount of sunshine in the San Antonio forecast, but I’m inclined to agree with him.
A few other notes and quotes . . .
Slow start for DeMar, off night for LaMarcus
After his strong showing against LeBron and the Lakers on Monday, it was odd seeing zero points and just two shot attempts next to DeMar DeRozan’s name midway through the second quarter. He found a rhythm shortly after, finishing with 18 points on 8 of 18 shooting. Aldridge was less impactful on offense, scoring 15 on 18 shots. This team can only go so far when both stars are off.
Another short leash for Jakob
After getting the matchup-based DNP on Monday, Jakob Poeltl was reinserted into the starting lineup against Indiana, only to see just 13 minutes of total action. He finished with 2 points and 5 rebounds and didn’t see the floor again after getting pulled early in the third quarter.
A solid night for Forbes
Bryn Forbes isn’t Tony Parker, nor is he Dejounte Murray. Luckily for him, he’s not being asked to be either — simply to bring the ball up the floor, hit shots, survive on D, and make smart decisions with the ball in his hands. He had 15 points, 4 assists, and just 1 turnover in 31 minutes of action.
Pop on whether the team’s last-ranked pace benefits them
“We’ll find out. It’s not a very big sample yet so we’ll let some time go by and we’ll see, you know, how the new rules affect everything, if this trend continues or if it evens out. We’ll see.”
Pop on the LA game and the new high-scoring NBA
“When the score got above 130 I thought I was gonna have to be taken to the emergency room. I wanted to go to dinner after the game. When I got to 140 I thought it was heart attack time for sure. I can’t take this. I’m still in shock, I don’t know how that happens. We got a couple of guys that can score. Now if we can teach any defense, we might be OK, I don’t know. It doesn’t look like that right now, does it?”
“I haven’t really figured why we’re giving up so much other than we have a lot of new guys and they haven’t played together and they’re still getting the concepts down. We’ll get better at it. I don’t know if we can be as good as we’ve been in the past, but we’ll be better than we are now.”
Pop with some faintly positive news on the Derrick White front
“He’s progressing as they hoped. I don’t know how much longer it’s gonna take. He’s on the court now walking around, trotting around, putting some weight on his foot. No setbacks or anything — he’s on the right track.”