It wasn’t always pretty, especially in the second and fourth quarters, but the San Antonio Spurs continued to be their road warrior selves, this time blowing out the short-handed Indiana Pacers 109-94. Despite not getting much from their bench, the Spurs created a big lead early and never looked back on their way to the comfortable but ugly win.
Derrick White led all five starters in double figures with 25 points on 6-11 shooting from three, while Malcom Brogdon and Caris LeVert scored 18 apiece for the Pacers.
- Contrary to what the injury report said, the Pacers were without Domantas Sabonis (back), Myles Turner (toe), and Jeremy Lamb (knee) in this one, but Doug McDermott was back from an ankle injury. Fortunately, instead of seeing it as an opportunity to relax, the Spurs laid it on early. After briefly getting down 15-9, the Spurs responded by outscoring the Pacers 27-6 over the rest of the first quarter, led by a career-high-for-a-quarter 16 points from White on 4-4 from three.
- It’s possible there was a case of uneven rims in terms of tightness at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The rim on the right side of the court had a significantly louder clank to it than the left. In other words, you could close your eyes and hear if the Pacers missed a shot in the first half, while there was no real indicator on the Spurs side. This theory was confirmed in the second half as the clubs switched sides, and a Spurs’ missed FT loudly clanked off the rim early in the third, but a missed three by the Pacers could barely be heard.
- Drew Eubanks’ big week may have earned him backup center minutes for now, as he was the first one off the bench for Jakob Poeltl ahead of Gorgui Dieng. The Spurs broadcast had some fun facts about his recent performances, such as he’s the only Spur besides Boris Diaw to hit 5+ field goals without missing in consecutive games, having shot 13-13 against Portland and Phoenix. Unfortunately, he won’t get to challenge Wilt Chamberlain’s record of 35 straight makes after missing a couple of tip-ins in the first quarter, but maybe he’ll get a chance again someday to challenge the next best record, which belongs to Serge Ibaka, who made 18 straight during his time in Toronto.
- Patty Mills returned from his rest night in Phoenix, but he still looked out of sorts and had his hands on his knees after just the first quarter. He and Lonnie Walker failed to score any field goals, and the Spurs continued to not get much from their bench, with only Eubanks and Rudy Gay combining for 11 points in the first half as the Spurs barely maintained a double-digit lead of 55-44. Devin Vassell once again was a DNP until garbage time, and even Bill Land and Sean Elliott pointed out that is was “strange” that he wasn’t playing after his career night in Phoenix. (Of course, they aren’t going to directly call out Gregg Popovich.) This is not to say I believe Mills should be benched in favor of Vassell, but he should at least be added to the rotation.
- One thing the Spurs can work on to avoid giving up so many offensive rebounds is everyone needs to rally to the boards when Poeltl gets drawn out of the paint on defense. More than once, everyone else could be seen ball-watching as a Pacer shot up a three against Poeltl, and no one went after the rebound.
- The starters continued to shine in the third quarter, getting up by as much as 21, but once again the bench came in and underwhelmed. The energy sapped away, the ball movement stopped, and they allowed the Pacers just enough room to get back within 16 heading into the fourth.
- Here’s something you don’t see everyday in a Spurs game: a mini-brawl! Early in the fourth quarter, JaKarr Sampson shoved Mills out of bounds on the defensive end, Patty gave him a retaliatory bump as they got back up the court, and Sampson responded with a headbutt. Sampson received a technical and flagrant two and was ejected, and Mills and Gay (who jumped in to Patty’s defense) both received technicals for their roles in the skirmish. The net result was one technical free throw for the Pacers, which McDermott missed, and Patty made the two free throws resulting from the flagrant foul. The good news is those FT’s saved him from having his first consecutive games of not scoring since January 2013, when he wasn’t even a rotation player for the Spurs yet. He failed to score on Friday against Portland before sitting out in Phoenix.
- Skirmish aside, the first half of the fourth quarter featured some of the ugliest basketball I’ve personally ever seen. Neither team was sharp, shots weren’t falling, and no one could score outside of free throws for the first several minutes. Poeltl fouled out with 7:26 left as Aaron Holiday flopped on a screen, and it just never seemed like the clock would get going again. Fortunately, White got hot again and helped stretch the lead back to 20, and Pop finally emptied the bench. (But even then it felt like the refs were never going to let the game end with whistle after whistle. It got to the point the Indiana fans were even booing whistles in their favor just because they wanted it to be over.)
For the Pacers fans’ perspective, visit Indy Cornrows.
The Spurs will return home for a quick back-to-back at home, beginning with the Miami Heat on Wednesday. Tip-off will be at 7:30 PM CT on BSSW.