The San Antonio Spurs commenced their 50th anniversary season with an exasperating loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday, exhibiting their youth, inexperience, and unfamiliarity. Gregg Popovich and company must reorganize themselves as they hit the road for a meeting with the Indiana Pacers, a fellow rebuilding franchise.
The Silver and Black are hoping to bounce back in the Hoosier State, and with 12 consecutive games against playoff contenders after this matchup, this might be their best opportunity to snatch a dub. Keldon Johnson was phenomenal in the home opener, and the fourth-year forward will look to maintain his momentum tonight.
San Antonio Spurs (0-1) @ Indiana Pacers (0-1)
October 21, 2022 | 6:00 PM CT
Watch: Bally Sports Southwest | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: None
Pacers Injuries: Daniel Theis (Game Time Decision — Rest), Chris Duarte (Game Time Decision — Nose), Myles Turner (Out — Ankle)
Can Jakob Poeltl function as a fulcrum of the offense?
San Antonio was going to have several question marks surrounding their playmaking after trading Dejounte Murray across conferences during the summer. The All-Star point guard wasn’t the most dynamic passer, but the Spurs assembled a heliocentric offense dependent on his ability to get into the paint, execute simple reads, and take care of the ball.
Though head coach Gregg Popovich seemed intent on replacing that production by committee, he didn’t spread the wealth the way most people might have expected in the season debut. Rather than Tre Jones, Josh Primo, or Keldon Johnson spearheading the attack, Jakob Poeltl led the Silver and Black in touches (73) and passes made (58), with the runner-ups not coming particularly close.
The seventh-year center served as a hub from the elbows and received a handful of post-ups, finding cutters and three-point shooters. He only recorded two assists, but a traditional boxscore can only tell part of the story, and his teammates squandered a handful of brilliant short-roll and high-low dimes.
Poeltl also had his fair share of miscues, attempting some overly ambitious deliveries. And his stiffness dribbling with his back to the basket was unmistakable, especially when help defenders applied ancillary pressure. Was his opening night usage a fluke? Or will the Spurs turn to their longest-tenured player when they travel to Indiana for their first road game of the season?
Three significant areas for improvement for the Spurs
The Spurs were a complete disaster in their season-opening blowout loss to Charlotte on Wednesday night. Their offense stuttered out of the gates as a starting five composed of primarily non-shooters and middling self-creators struggled to mesh. San Antonio only went 7-of-34 (20.4%) from beyond the arc, and that blend of inefficiency and low three-point volume will almost always leave you staring down a guaranteed defeat.
Live ball giveaways were also a killer for the Silver and Black, which is a strange sentence to write about a team that posted the highest assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2:1) in league history a year ago. Maybe that should have been the expected result after they moved on from their best passer and got younger in the same offseason. Regardless, they must protect the ball against an Indiana defense full of capable event creators salivating at the opportunity to generate fastbreak opportunities.
Speaking of defense, it was virtually nonexistent when the Hornets came to town. San Antonio couldn’t keep their opponent out of the paint, giving up layups and floaters while relinquishing open looks on the outside after collapsing to stop dribble penetration. Their communication and effort in transition were equally horrendous, which could spell trouble if they can’t corral a squad that loves to push the pace.
San Antonio is still searching for their Tyrese Haliburton
Tyrese Haliburton looked like a potential franchise cornerstone for the Pacers, averaging 17.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 9.6 assists per game on .502/.416/.849 shooting splits after they acquired him close to the trade deadline. The 22-year-old point guard gave fans a taste of his enormous upside, and he should be a legitimate candidate to become a first-time All-Star this season.
Containing Haliburton is their key to victory, but that’s much easier said than done. The silky-smooth floor general is coming off a 26-4-7 regular-season debut. Even if San Antonio prevents another scoring barrage, he can effortlessly use his exceptional court vision to set the table for Buddy Hield, Bennedict Mathurin, and Jalen Smith.
While Indiana has a prospect worth orchestrating an offense around, the Spurs are still searching for their next building block. While a generational talent probably doesn’t reside on this roster, Keldon Johnson, Josh Primo, Devin Vassell, and Jeremy Sochan still have 81 outings on the schedule to show the front office otherwise.
For the Pacers fans’ perspective, please 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.