Not all 13-point losses are created equal.
The San Antonio Spurs beat the Indiana Pacers 122-109 in the season opener for both teams, but if you didn't watch the game you may not believe it was a lot closer game than the final score indicates.
No, the Pacers never seemed a threat to steal a road win from the veteran Spurs. In fact, there were times in the second and third quarters when the Pacers were playing so well it seemed as though they were up double-digits, yet the Spurs were usually hanging onto a small lead.
The Pacers avoided getting buried by a couple of first half runs by the Pacers and even sidestepped the dreaded third quarter funk that often infects their winning efforts. Instead, the fourth quarter collapse came courtesy of a four-minute dry spell at the offensive end and an business-like closeout by a Spurs team that made it look easy.
While the outcome isn't surprising and there were plenty of positives to point toward for the Pacers, there were still too many self-inflicted wounds. The frustrating part of the loss is all of the little things that the Pacers can control that they let hurt them badly.
On the road against the Spurs, the Pacers want to work to give themselves a chance to win at the end of the game. Untimely turnovers, fourth quarter free throw misses and defensive lapses kept the Pacers from giving themselves a chance to win.
After the jump, a few thoughts on the highlights and lowlights from game one.
- Pacers had several opportunities to get buried in the first half but never let the lead get out of hand and then with a few timely stops and Roy Hibbert riding shotgun with Danny Granger the blue and gold worked their way back into the game and even took a lead late in the second half.
- Eight first quarter turnovers put the Pacers in an early hole, but both teams were knocking down shots with little resistance. The maddening turnovers returned in the second half, seemingly in bunches with the Pacers finishing the game with 23 donations. The Spurs only had 14, tightening thing up at winning time. Those nine possessions alone are enough to declare the difference.
- Hibbert shook off a tough start and finally found a little rhythm late in the second quarter. Matched up with Tim Duncan, Hibbert went straight at the future Hall of Famer scoring on three straight touches at one time. Roy continued his solid play from there, finishing one point shy of a career high with 28 points along with 9 rebounds and 3 blocks.
- Josh McRoberts came alive during a third quarter stretch, knocking down a 3 ball, throwing down an alley oop pass on DeJuan Blair's head and then swatting Blair at the other end. Later in the third, he had a magnificent outlet pass to a running Paul George who drew a foul at the other end. McRoberts finished with 11 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks, more than holding his own matched up against Blair much of the night. Blair finished with 9 points and 3 rebounds.
- Speaking of rebounds, there weren't a lot to be had because both teams made so many shots. Defense was certainly optional for long stretches and it played out like a classic, first-team-to-120-wins game.
- Danny Granger had an excellent all-around first half effort. Unfortunately, he missed some minutes in the first quarter after the Flail Master General, Manu Ginobili kicked Granger square in the doo dads while trying to sell a foul. Granger finished with 26 points and 4 rebounds but the Spurs made things difficult for Granger to get many good looks in the second half.
- Darren Collison started his Pacers' career with 19 points and 7 assists along with 3 turnovers. Collison looked fabulous at times, pretty good most of the time but also a little lost on defense at times trying to keep up with Tony Parker.
- On most nights if Hibbert has 28 and 9, Granger has 26 and Collison has 19 and 7 assists, then the Pacers will be in the mix for a win. Unfortunately, the Spurs easily countered with Tim Duncan pitching in 23 and 12, Ginobili with 22 and Parker with 20 and 9 assists.
- Depth was the difference as things started falling apart in the second half for the Pacers when the second unit struggled to do about everything. Offense was erratic, defense wasn't happening. Solo Jones really struggled at both ends of the floor backing up Hibbert.
- Rookie Paul George was pressed into action early after Granger took the Manu boot. He played pretty well with the starters but looked far more like a rookie with the second unit in the second half. After missing some open perimeter looks, George passed up a couple of shots, trying to go inside which ended up as turnovers. He was active defensively which will keep him in the rotation for sure.
- James Posey backed up McRoberts at power forward. He knocked down one three and seems like a good influence on the floor, but might be better in a wing role.
- Neither Jeff Foster nor Tyler Hansbrough played and with the play of the second unit tonight, both should get a chance. I'm surprised neither played since one of them would've been a better choice for the inactive list than A.J. Price consideringi T.J. Ford's fragile hammy and the fact Price has played pretty well leading up to the regular season.
- Speaking of T.J. Ford, he played all of the backup minutes at point guard and offered up a typical mixed bag, but among that mix was some good offense and even one solid defensive stop, when he stymied George Hill. Let's hope for two of those next game
- George Hill struggled off the bench initially but made his share of plays for the Spurs as they finished off the Pacers. George did a little bit of everything with 16 points, 4 asssists, 3 rebounds and a couple of steals.
- A four minute scoreless stretch for the Pacers early in the fourth quarter included four missed free throws, a missed layup, a turnover and a San Antonio possession with two offensive rebounds by the Spurs.
- Apparently, Jim O'Brien's inactive list with Lance Stephenson, Dahntay Jones and A.J. Price was a surprise to the players. Jones tweeted earlier in the day that he had to go to the mall to get some suitable clothers to wear on the bench.
- Game two is on Friday at Charlotte. Plenty of room for improvement for the Pacers, but they need to build on the positives from tonight. Need a similar effort while tightening up the things they can control to play a complete 48 minutes.