The Spurs returned home from the Rodeo Road Trip to face the Indiana Pacers, fresh off their first win in a month and with a few faces back from injury. They started slow, which sometimes happens after returning home from an extended road trip, but after getting down by double digits in the first half, they came back before halftime and exploded in the second half to get their second straight win, 110-99.
Jeremy Sochan was active on both ends of the court, scoring first career double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds, and Zach Collins, Devonte’ Graham and Devin Vassell all scored 18 points. Buddy Hield led five Pacers in double figures with a relatively quiet (for him) 27 points.
- With Gregg Popovich and Brett Brown both out with non-Covid related illnesses, Mitch Johnson stepped up as the head coach of the Spurs tonight. It’s not as exciting as Tim Duncan or Becky Hammon, but Johnson is very accomplished and even recently interviewed for the head coaching vacancy in Atlanta before they chose Quinn Snyder. Expect Johnson to be added to the Pop head coaching tree someday. Pop is expected to return on Saturday.
- Vassell and Tre Jones both returned from extended absences due to injury, and both came off the bench. Keldon Johnson was also out after spraining his foot in Utah, so Malaki Branham — who questionable leading up to the game after suffering a back contusion — and Graham got the starts. Vassell was certainly rusty on the offensive end early, shooting 1-5 in the first quarter, but his one make was a dunk on the drive, showing that knee is just fine.
- When they didn’t leave the Pacers shooters wide open, the Spurs defense wasn’t bad in the first quarter, but they struggled to score on their own end, shooting just 10-27 and 0-7 from three. Indiana closed the first quarter on a 9-2 run to take a 29-21 lead.
- It’s been so long since the Spurs played at home that I forgot that most home games feature a former Spur. In the first quarter, I saw Steve Smith sitting near the Spurs bench when the camera zoomed in on Coach Johnson and couldn’t figure out what he was doing there. Well, of course it was because he was the Spurs alum of the evening, was introduced after the first quarter, and joined the broadcast during the second. It’s been too long, AT&T Center.
- The Spurs found their footing on offense in the second quarter and got within three at 33-36 before the Pacers pushed the lead back out to double digits. But the Spurs did what they always do and fought back, tying things back up 48 apiece before entering the half down 52-54. Vassell finally started hitting some shots as he found a rhythm, and Sochan led the way with 10 points.
- Doug McDermott was ruled out of the game at halftime after reportedly injuring his thumb sometime in the first half. He had just 1 assist in seven minutes of play before he left.
- On the Spurs first offensive possession of the second half, they technically had three “team” offensive rebounds, but Collins was responsible for all of them by never giving up on the ball and fighting for the rebounds. He nearly had a fourth on the possession but was unfortunately called for a loose ball foul on George Hill. Still, his effort set the tone for the second half, and the Spurs started the quarter on an 11-0 run after seven straight points from Graham and eventually built themselves a double-digit lead on a Sochan putback dunk.
- Vassell was certainly feeling it by the third quarter, hitting consecutive threes late, including one from two feet beyond the arc. He had 10 points in the quarter, and Sochan doubled his point total from the first half with 10 more points and pesky defense, helping the Spurs increase their lead to 13, 83-70, heading into the fourth quarter.
- The Spurs got the lead as high as 18 on another Graham three midway through the fourth quarter, but they got careless with the ball, and consecutive threes from Buddy Hield and Chris Duarte brought the lead back down to 10. However, the Spurs regained their composure and kept the Pacers at arm’s length, getting their second straight win, second win of the season when trailing by double digits, and second straight game of holding a team under 100 points. Who saw this turnaround coming a few days ago? To think they could even win two more with the Rockets coming up twice this weekend...
- You know it’s a different era when Hield has broken Reggie Miller’s franchise record for made threes in a season with 20 games to go. Even though the Spurs killer had a big night with a very efficient 27 points, it felt unusually quiet for him, maybe because the Spurs were winning most of the second half, and he never truly exploded on them outside of that little spurt in the fourth. His points were just kind of spread out across the game and didn’t jump off the page.
For the Pacers fans’ perspective, visit Indy Cornrows.
The Spurs will return to the AT&T Center on Saturday to begin a home-away miniseries with the Houston Rockets. Tip-off will be at 7:00 PM CT on CW35.