It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but the Spurs’ visit to Indiana ended with a win, which is all that matters. Thanks to balanced scoring and a good collective effort on defense, San Antonio beat the shorthanded Pacers 109-94.
Both teams took a while to size each other up at the start of the night, with the ball handlers trying to take the ball to the rack to test their opponent’s interior defense. The Spurs in particular seemed convinced that they’d have an edge by attacking Goga Bitadze in the pick and roll, a conviction they would continue to have throughout the night. The initial stalemate lasted a while before San Antonio, the much healthier team, made a run. DeMar DeRozan is the type of reliable bucket-getter that Indiana was missing with Domantas Sabonis out, and Derrick White picked up the mantle —when DeRozan took a breather— by raining three-pointers.
It’s one thing for the Spurs to get a sizable lead, and another for them to keep it, as we’ve seen throughout the season. This time they seemed safe, since Indiana lacked the depth and firepower to make a big run that would get them back in the game, despite the efforts of Bitadze. When the starters checked back in, however, they did get a good stretch in which Caris LeVert, who had been painfully quiet in the first quarter, became that DeRozan-like go-to scorer the Pacers were missing. His efforts were enough to get Indiana within 10 at one point, but not to put pressure on San Antonio.
With neither team playing well and the Silver and Black comfortably ahead, it seemed like the outcome of the game would probably be a Spurs win, so the real question was when would the Pacers, on a SEGABABA and missing their two starting bigs, give up. To their credit, they didn’t. They continued to play hard, which on a normal night might have complicated things for a San Antonio team that has lacked killer instincts to put opponents away all year. For some reason, that was not going to happen on Monday, as the visitors matched the home team’s energy level on both ends. There was no game-ending run, but one frankly didn’t seem necessary going into the final period.
The only semi-interesting thing to happen in the last 12 minutes was a kerfuffle between Jakarr Sampson and, of all people, Patty Mills.
Things got a little chippy between the Spurs and Pacers. pic.twitter.com/8RmqU6Mgmz— Bally Sports San Antonio (@BallySportsSA) April 20, 2021
Sampson was ejected for his weak headbutt while both Mills and Rudy Gay, who immediately came to his defense, got a technical each.
If the confrontation was an attempt to energize the tired Pacers, it didn’t work. There was less garbage time than there should have been, but ultimately the great road team took care of business against an opponent that struggles at home.
- All five Spurs starters scored in double-digits and had at least one assist. A balanced offensive effort from the starting unit.
- Both DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray came close to logging triple doubles. Those two tend to stuff the stat sheet, so it’s not all that surprising to see good numbers from them, but it’s still worth mentioning. They both also played good defense, which is definitely a surprise coming from DeRozan. The best sign that the Spurs wanted this one was seeing DeMar actually try on his own end. More of that, please.
- Derrick White is finally letting it fly, and it’s glorious to see. White took 11 three-pointers and made six, while also dishing out four assists and playing good defense. White is looking more and more like the Bubble Derrick, which is good news for the Spurs.
- Keldon Johnson has faded into the background a little since his surprising start, but he still contributes. Getting 14 points, six rebounds and two assists from your starting power forward is nothing to scoff at. The fact that we are starting to take him for granted a little is a good sign. We expect him to be productive at this point, and he more often than not delivers.
- Jakob Poeltl fouled out on an illegal screen call, which is just perfect. Officials just seem to love to call ticky tack fouls on the big man. In his time on the court he was solid, though, as he almost always is. He also made his two free-throws and even ran a break.
- Patty Mills scored two points on the two foul shots he took after the altercation but was not very useful on Monday. His bodyguard, Rudy Gay, had a decent stat line of eight points, seven rebounds and two assists, but missed his three-point attempts. The starters carried the team on this one, so the bench vets weren’t really needed, which is why they get a pass.
- The younger members of the bench had dissimilar nights as well. Lonnie Walker IV missed all five of his shots and didn’t have a big impact on the game. Meanwhile, Drew Eubanks continued to show that he just needed a few games to get ready by scoring nine points and pulling down 13 rebounds in just 15 minutes. It seems that Gorgui Dieng, who was heralded as a great addition, will remain the third string center for now.
- Devin Vassell only got three garbage time minutes after his great performance against the Suns. It might be time to accept that there won’t be minutes for him unless someone gets injured or rests, as frustrating as that might be for some fans.
- A google search confirmed my recollection that the Spurs were reportedly interested in Goga Bitadze leading up to the 2019 draft. He was selected one spot ahead of Luka Samanic, so maybe the Georgian center would have been the pick if he had been available. Time will tell which European prospect turns out to be the best, but both show promise now, so I doubt either team regrets their decision.
Next game: Vs. Heat on Wednesday
The Spurs will face a real test when they go against Jimmy Butler and the Heat. Another win could signal that they’ll close strong and hold on to a play-in spot.