Despite the loss, there were good things to take from tonight, but as is often the case with this Indiana Pacers team, they simply weren't able to rely on those positives to come away with a victory. It was no different against the San Antonio Spurs, who had their own issues, nearly blanking from three point range and getting blown up on 50/50 balls and offensive rebounds. But the Spurs can overcome parts of their game that struggles, the Pacers are still learning how to do that.
Tonight, the Pacers played a flawless first half, riding the bench to a halftime lead. But as they managed to balloon their halftime lead to 17 in the third quarter, sloppy play gave the Spurs ample opportunities to flip their fortunes. Tony Parker (33) and Tim Duncan (22) were the only Spurs to play at a high level for much of the game, but when Manu Ginobili found a rhythm, landing himself a quiet 19 points, the Pacers, who had responded well to San Antonio gut checks all night, simply couldn't get anything to fall. The result was two points in the final five and a half minutes, a 12-0 Spurs run, and another loss. It wasn't the first winnable game that slipped out of the Pacers' grasp, and judging on how things have been so far this early, it surely won't be the last.
Until the final half of the fourth quarter, the Pacers were scoring on the Spurs with will, shooting well, scoring well, 93 points through 43 minutes, 27 assists on 38 field goals, it's all a big step forward for this team's offensive woes. Unfortunately, it simply hasn't been enough. The defense has been fine in stretches, but hasn't quite been what it was in the opening games. Part of that is a Spurs team capable of making plays, specifically their three stars; no one else wearing a Spurs uniform save a stretch from Danny Green resulted in any kind of offensive rhythm.
But again, it simply wasn't enough. The final five minutes was as frustrating as it gets; easy shots going awry, David West even missing two consecutive free throws late when the team just needed to see something, anything, go in. West finished with a team high 22, played extremely well, but the types of shots he missed at the end, there's not a whole lot that can be done about it.
The same can be said to a degree about Roy Hibbert, who had more than one key offensive rebound that resulted in a missed shot at the basket. Hibbert had a 10 point, 11 rebound double double, but was also 5-18 from the field. Paul George as well didn't put himself in position to make any plays after a big game against New Orleans. While he did score 15, only five came in the second half.
The starters as a whole were granted a great opportunity thanks to a bench that took it to San Antonio's second unit all night. D.J. Augustin had a solid eight points and eight assists to really carry the bench; helped along by Tyler Hansbrough rebounding everything in sight with a solid show from Ian Mahinmi. Lance Stephenson played well when he was given the opportunity to push the tempo, scoring nine points, and getting a highlight drive on Parker.
Indiana has a long weekend that will end up with them in Los Angeles to face the Lakers on Tuesday. A rejuvenated Lakers team doesn't quite look like the best medicine right now, but bringing the effort they brought tonight certainly won't hurt their chances at getting a third straight game at Staples Center and finding that statement win that can hopefully get this season on track.
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