One of the most feared phrases in the NBA is “tail-end of a back-to-back.” Especially coming off an overtime loss in which a team blows a 20-point lead. That’s exactly where the San Antonio Spurs find themselves as they travel to Indianapolis. After losing a close one to the Toronto Raptors 123-116, the Spurs have a chance to bounce back against another Eastern Conference foe.
They will face an Indiana Pacers squad who has one of the best young point guards in the NBA. Tyrese Haliburton has launched himself into superstardom with a strong Team USA performance this summer, and an All-Star appearance last season. He’s coming off a 43 point, 12 assist game in a loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday. The Spurs will be tasked with stopping Haliburton and company in hopes to get back over .500.
San Antonio Spurs (3-3) at Indiana Pacers (3-3)
November 6, 2023 | 6 P.M. CT
Watch: BSSW | Listen: WOAI/KXTN
Spurs injuries: Charle Bediako – Out (G League assignment,) Sidy Cissoko – Out (G League assignment,) Sir’Jabari Rice – Out (G League assignment,) Keldon Johnson – Questionable (left wrist,) Devin Vassell – Out (left adductor)
Pacers injuries: Kendall Brown – Questionable (G League assignment,) Oscar Tshiebwe – Questionable (G League assignment,) Isaiah Wong – Questionable (G League assignment)
What to watch for
Wembanyama’s first back-to-back
During the offseason when media pundits were questioning Wembanyama’s strength, the Spurs rookie was worried about something else. He talked a lot about the ability to play a full 82-game season. A big part of the wear and tear of the NBA are back-to-backs, where players have less time to recover.
This game marks Wembanyama’s first NBA back-to-back. He’s averaging 28.6 minutes per game through his first six contests. Watch how the Spurs handle his minutes, and how Wemby holds up over the course of the game. He’s shown a few signs of fatigue in these early matchups, but the Spurs have done a good job maximizing the minutes he plays, getting him out of there when he appears tired. It will be interesting to see how he handles the fatigue of a back-to-back.
Defense, Defense, Defense
The Indiana Pacers are a good offensive team. They are top-5 in the league in scoring (120.3 points per game) and top-10 in offensive rating (116.8.) Led by Haliburton, they move the ball well (1st in the league in assists, 30.8 a game,) and play fast, as they are second in the league in pace. They are fifth in the league in 3-point attempts (40 a game) and are shooting 37% from three. San Antonio is coming off a game where they let Toronto punish them from deep. The Spurs will need to lock in defensively to compete.
The Pacers have not been great defensively, giving up 123.5 points per game. This has the opportunity to become a shootout if the Spurs don’t find a way to slow down the Pacers. Jeremy Sochan and Keldon Johnson will need to guard Indiana’s capable perimeter scorers. Wembanyama and Collins will look to pick up where they left off, effectively guarding the paint against the Raptors.
Point guard play
It was an uneven game for the Spurs point guard duo against Toronto. Both Sochan and Tre Jones struggled to get downhill and finish, and turned the ball over 3 times each. Haliburton, Andrew Nembhard and TJ McConnell provide pesky matchups on the perimeter for the Spurs guards.
Sochan in particular could use a big game after struggling a bit to learn the new position. He was excellent in the Spurs win against the Suns. Look for both Sochan and Jones to bounce back in Indianapolis.