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Shorthanded Spurs run out of juice in loss to the Pacers

The shorthanded Pacers were too much for the even more shorthanded Spurs.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off the extreme, emotional high of beating the Utah Jazz, making their first fourth quarter comeback of the season, and getting Gregg Popovich his NBA-record 1,336th regular season win the night before, it already wasn’t going to be surprising if they had a letdown game against the Indiana Pacers the next night. A loss became even more likely when Pop decided he would rest Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson and Jacob Poeltl for the SEGABABA, and that’s exactly what happened.

The Spurs started the game well enough, getting out to an 11-8 lead, but a 7-0 run by the Pacers forced a timeout after the Spurs turned it over under Indiana’s basket. Jock Landale, who was one point shy of his career high in the first half alone with 17 points, scored four-straight to tie things up at 15 apiece, but the Pacers would lead the rest of the half. They went on a 13-2 run while the Spurs missed several bunny shots, but a quick 5-0 Spurs run via a Josh Richardson layup and Lonnie Walker three off the steal got them back within single digits heading into the second quarter, 31-40.

The second quarter was a rollercoaster ride for the Spurs. The Pacers’ Duane Washington Jr hit 3 threes early for 9 of his 19 first half points, but the Spurs had responses with Devin Vassell, Walker and Landale all hitting threes of their own. They would get back within four 47-43, but the Pacers responded with a 15-4 run and eventually had the Spurs down by as much as 19, 69-50. However, as they had done all night so far, the Spurs responded with 14-2 run to close the half only down 71-64 on the back of scrappy defense and good ball movement on offense.

Unfortunately, the Spurs came out of halftime all out of sorts, and the Pacers opened the third quarter with a 17-6 run before the first media timeout with 6:37 left — not a Pop timeout, which meant he was just letting them play. The Spurs never got any closer than 13 the rest of the quarter and entered the fourth down 97-82.

Of course, it’s important to remember that these Spurs never quit, and they started the quarter on a 6-2 run off threes from Zach Collins and Walker, forcing a Pacers timeout. The Spurs would get briefly within ten points, and while they played the Pacers pretty much evenly the rest of the way, they just didn’t have the firepower to make a second straight double-digit comeback and lost 119-108.

Game Notes

  • It only took 3:20 for the Spurs to get even more shorthanded than when they started the game, with Doug McDermott twisting his ankle after landing on Oshae Brissett’s foot on a three-point attempt. He stayed in the game to make his three free throws but was immediately subbed out and did not return.
  • The refs stopped play in the second quarter to review what they called an “altercation that didn’t resolve” between Isaiah Jacksin and Collins after a Collins shooting foul. No one seemed to know what they were talking about, and review showed that maybe a few words were exchanged between the two players, but nothing that should be considered an “altercation”, and it definitely got “resolved” almost immediately. Both Pop and Rick Carlisle seemed to think it was weak sauce and would have been happy to keep playing when discussing the issue with the refs, but a double-technical was ultimately the final call.
  • Another excruciatingly long video review extended the second quarter even further. Pop challenged a late whistle on Landale, when Jackson came over Landale’s back for the putback attempt. While the foul was called on Landale, it looked like it should have been an offensive foul as Jackson held him down with his off arm. After taking seemingly forever to decide, the refs said there was not enough evidence to overturn the call, but also explained that Landale was moving laterally underneath Jackson. So if there is an explanation for the call, then wouldn’t that mean the call is “confirmed” instead of simply “stands” (which means not enough evidence to overturn)? They then went back to review to decide if it was shooting foul. That was one long second quarter.

Play of the Game

There weren’t a whole lot of “exciting” plays in this one, but there was a bit of a dunk fest going on the second quarter, and Vassell’s tomahawk dunk was the best of them all.

Spurs Valuable Player

Spurs Valuable Player (SVP)

3rd place (1 point): Lonnie Walker | 20 points, 4-9 from three, 6 rebounds

2nd place (2 points): Devin Vassell | 19 points, 8-20 shooting, 7 rebounds, 3 assists

With Murray and Johnson out, the starting unit’s offense was Vassell’s to run. It wasn’t his best shooting night ever, but he did hit 3-6 from three and scored seven points during the Spurs’ last-ditch effort to come back in the fourth quarter, which allowed him to sneak into the rankings. (Otherwise, Josh Richardson had a good argument.)

1st place (3 points): Jock Landale | 26 points (career high), 12-15 shooting, 7 rebounds

With Poeltl out, McDermott leaving the game early, and Zach Collins on a minutes restriction, Landale got a career-high 35 minutes covering both power forward and backup center, and did he ever take advantage. While he only hit 1-4 from three, he was a perfect 11-11 from inside the arc, a lot of which came via attacking the offensive glass. Most of the Spurs runs to remain in the game came with him on the floor, and maybe his career night will get him more looks down the stretch of the season.

Overall Leaderboard

1st - Dejounte Murray - 104pts

2nd - Jakob Poeltl - 61pts

3rd - Derrick White - 51pts

4th - Keldon Johson - 48pts

5th - Devin Vassell - 44pts

6th - Lonnie Walker IV - 32pts

7th - Doug McDermott - 16pts

8th - Bryn Forbes - 12pts

9th - Thaddeus Young - 11pts

10th - Jock Landale & Tre Jones - 7pts

11th - Keita Bates-Diop - 6pts

12th - Josh Primo & Josh Richardson - 3pts

13th - Drew Eubanks - 2pts

14th - Devontae Cacok & Zach Collins - 1pt

Up Next: vs. Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday

The Spurs will get Sunday off before continuing their homestand against the rising Timberwolves, who currently sit in the seventh seed and are aiming to make the playoffs for just the second time since 2005. Tipoff will be at 7:30 PM CT on Bally Sports SW-SA.