The Spurs showed some of their best form in their final tune-up game against the Indiana Pacers, leading to a confidence-boosting 118-111 win ahead of the regular season restart. Everyone was unselfish on offense, turnovers were cut down considerably (just 12), and the effort was there on defense as the Spurs recorded 8 steals and 8 blocks along with some solid overall play on that end (at least from the players you expect).
Five Spurs scored in double figures, led by 23 points from Rudy Gay and 21 from Keldon Johnson. Myles Turner led six Pacers in double figures with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
- Welcome back, Bill Land and Sean Elliott! It’s so nice to hear a couple of familiar sports voices again. This was also a nice reminder how solid a pairing they are, as they didn’t seem to miss a beat despite announcing remotely from the AT&T Center.
- It appears another approach the NBA has taken to make the games feel more “authentic” is bringing in the PA announcer of the “home” team (remotely or otherwise). It was immediately obvious they were announcing plays as if they were in Indiana: when the Pacers scored, it was announced “excitedly”, while when the Spurs scored it was with that “begrudgingly accepting” tone that the road team usually receives. The digital background showing the Pacers’ logo and imagery the whole time was another dead giveaway.
- With the Pacers missing Domantas Sabonis and not playing super big, the Spurs’ four-guard starting line-up held their own pretty well in the first quarter as they defended the perimeter, got blocks, and pushed the pace in transition. Jakob Poeltl even managed to get 8 first quarter minutes in with only two fouls. When he stays out of foul trouble and is engaged on defense, it helps prevent complete defensive breakdowns around him.
- There was again no Patty Mills, but Johnson and Quinndary Weatherspoon both came in ahead of Bryn Forbes off the bench, who was a DNP in this one. Is this a rest game for him, or is it an even bigger sign that Gregg Popovich is going all in on the youth movement?
- A typical trend with Drew Eubanks during these scrimmages seems to be he comes out slow and has to shake off some jitters, but once he gets comfortable, he improves considerably throughout the game. He still isn’t great but for most part has been solid enough (after the aforementioned early jitters) to warrant the back-up center minutes while the Spurs are short-handed.
- Although the Spurs finished the first half down 60-59, overall they looked much more solid than they have at any point so far. They were aggressive on offense, forcing their way into the paint or finding the open shooter on the perimeter more than just settling for typical mid-range shots. As a result, they were rewarded with a 15-8 FTA advantage in the first half: a first in this entire tune-up round. They also only committed 5 turnovers in the first half after having over 20 in the previous two scrimmages.
- The Spurs came out on fire in the second half, getting ahead by as many as 14 points on the back of more good ball movement leading to open looks, and things didn’t drop off much when the bench came in. A big part of that was Rudy Gay appeared to break out of his funk. After many questioned his fitness level in the first two games, he contributed 23 points on 7-12 shooting with only two turnovers. DeMar DeRozan also had his most solid showing yet, with 17 points on 8-13 shots and 7 rebounds, and it didn’t hinder the ability of the young players around him to shine.
- The third unit came in with the Spurs up 106-96 with 5:30 left in the fourth, and they maintained the lead to secure the win. In case anyone was wondering, Luka Samanic looked more engaged than before, although he did spoil two Lonnie Walker IV assists by missing an open lay-up and corner three.
That’s it for the scrimmages! The Spurs will return to the court for the first of eight regular games. It will be a must-win if they want to make the playoffs, as they will be facing off against the Sacramento Kings: one of the the four teams ahead of them in the standings that are all vying for the 8th or 9th seed. Tip-off will be at 7:00 PM CT on FSSW.