Following a massive blowout of the second-place Suns, the Spurs will now look to claw back to .500 behind the momentum of their stellar two-way performance from Saturday night. And while San Antonio was down two starters and their top bench unit scorer against Phoenix, the Silver and Black are the healthiest they have been all season this go-round.
The good guys dropped a heartbreaker in overtime in their previous tilt with the Pacers earlier this month. But they will have the opportunity to even the season series with Indiana tonight. Both squads occupy a play-in spot in their respective conference and probably hope to put some distance between themselves and those trailing them in the standings.
San Antonio Spurs (27-28) @ Indiana Pacers (26-30)
April 19, 2021 | 7:00 PM CST
Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Trey Lyles (Out — Ankle)
Pacers Injuries: T.J. Warren (Out — Foot), Doug McDermott (Out — Ankle)
How will coach Pop handle the rotations?
It will be incredibly intriguing to see how head coach Gregg Popovich handles the rotation with a virtually vacant injury report heading into a Monday night matchup against the Pacers. With DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills, and Jakob Poelt sitting out for rest against Phoenix, San Antonio appeared to be in for a sizable loss, but the shorthanded Spurs flipped the script and blew out the second-place Suns.
Drew Eubanks recorded his second double-double in four games, Devin Vassell dropped a career-high 18 points, and Gorgui Dieng logged 20 minutes for the first time since joining San Antonio in late March. And though Luka Samanic didn’t make much of an impact on the final result in his third start of the season, he flashed defensive playmaking potential with two blocks and a steal in just under 17 minutes.
Pop has recently trimmed the team down to a nine-man rotation. Even when one of the third-stringers performs well in the absence of a starter or two, he hasn’t hesitated to send them back to a bench-warming role upon the return of a rotation regular. Vassell and Samanic have combined for six DNP dating back to April 11, and despite an impressive showing, the former could find himself back at the end of the pine.
Rudy, Patty, and DeMar account for 82 minutes per game when healthy. And with as heavily as Pop leans on veterans, Spurs fans may not see much of Devin or Luka as long as San Antonio is within reach of a Western Conference play-in spot. It took injuries to Trey Lyles, LaMarcus Aldridge, and a bubble to force his hand into committing to a full-throttle youth movement a year ago, so don’t expect drastic changes anytime soon.
Can the Spurs take advantage of tired legs?
Indiana will enter this matchup with a little more than 24 hours of rest under their belt. And while San Antonio pulled off the improbably against Phoenix on Saturday, NBA teams have only won around 43% of their SEGABABAs over the last decade. The Pacers, however, are 8-4 on the second leg of back-to-backs this season, including an overtime victory against the Spurs earlier this month.
Thankfully, first-year head coach Nate Bjorkgren didn’t do much to conserve his starting or second unit as Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, Malcolm Brogdon, and T.J. McConnell each played more than 31 minutes on Sunday afternoon. Caris LeVert, Justin Holiday, and Jeremy Lamb spent less time on the court than usual, though their struggles shooting and defending could account for their limited run.
The Pacers are 1-3 in their last four outings. They have allowed a league-worst 124.5 points per game at a 49.2% clip while also allowing a league-worst 50.5 rebounds per game during this stretch. Although Doug McDermott is far from a strong defender, his absence gives the Spurs one less sharpshooter to monitor, which should only help them sustain some momentum from their best defensive showing of the season.
Stopping Domantas Sabonis
Domantas Sabonis is one of the most versatile big men in the NBA, and few seven-footers rival his passing, rebounding, and ability to get to the free-throw line. And on top of having a well-rounded skill set, the two-time All-Star become an increasingly aggressive scorer since joining the Pacers in 2017, averaging a career-high 19.9 points per game.
The Gonzaga alumnus didn’t suit up last time these interconference foes met, but his size could give San Antonio some problems. The Spurs field one of the smaller lineups in the league, and seeing as Sabonis and Myles Turner typically share the floor for the majority of the night, Jakob Poeltl, Drew Eubanks, Gorgui Dieng, and Rudy Gay will have to be locked in.
That said, Sabonis is at his best when creating open looks for his teammates, and Nikola Jokic is the only center averaging more assists per game this season. Brogdon, LeVert, and McConnell also shoulder a fair share of the playmaking responsibilities, and all three are more than capable of exploding for big games versus San Antonio.
For the Pacers fans’ perspective, visit Indy Cornrows.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.