The Indiana Pacers needed not one, but two fourth quarter comebacks, coming up with both to secure a big home win over the San Antonio Spurs thanks in large part to Victor Oladipo sinking the game winning three.
The three led to Indiana’s 97-94 win over San Antonio, but it was potentially disastrous fourth quarter early on, one where the Spurs had appeared to settle into a groove to close out the win in the fourth.
Indiana led for almost the entire duration through the first three quarters, using superior shooting in the first half to stave off any San Antonio runs, but showing a new side of the team in the third, one that has the ability to force misses and slug it out for 12 minutes.
Neither team could find the bottom of the net in the quarter, and in Indiana’s case, they couldn’t even hold onto the ball. The Pacers committed eight turnovers in the third, but still held on to their halftime lead, falling 16-15. Turnovers were a sore spot for the Pacers all night, as they committed 19 on the night, leading to 26 San Antonio points.
That, combined with a 21-2 second chance point advantage for the Spurs, threatened to undo the Pacers in the fourth as San Antonio began to find a rhythm and Nate McMillan’s perplexing five-man bench rotation featuring Joe Young, Lance Stephenson, and Cory Joseph stung the Pacers after staying afloat in the first half.
The Spurs outscored Indiana 18-5 to start the quarter to go up nine with just under seven minutes remaining in the game and McMillan was quick to reinsert the starters, who drew the game back into the Pacers favor. Indiana went on a 16-3 run to regain the lead, but once up 92-89 had to contend with a quick 5-0 run by Danny Green to once again give San Antonio the lead at 94-92.
Indiana held onto possession after Green knocked loose a Thaddeus Young drive out of bounds, leading to the Pacers getting a mismatch with Oladipo guarded by LaMarcus Aldridge. Instead of putting the ball on the floor as Oladipo had done on earlier possessions, he pulled up for a step back three, drilling it and giving Indiana the lead for good.
Oladipo’s game winner capped a 23-point night, 13 of those coming in the fourth quarter. Oladipo entered the fourth shooting just 2-6, but woke up in a big way to help Indiana close the win out. Both of his threes came in the fourth as he shot 5-7. Oladipo also led the Pacers in getting to the line, going 7-8.
Oladipo is forever linked with the Pacers to his trade teammate Domantas Sabonis and it’s been the story of the young season for the Pacers that they’re both not only contributing, but they’re the two best players on the team as Myles Turner continues to be sidelined with a concussion.
The Sabonis Rule was in effect tonight, as he shot a perfect 9-9 from the floor in the win. The Pacers move to 3-0 on the season when Sabonis doesn’t miss a shot from the floor. Even on a night when he shot perfect, hit a three, scored a career best 22 points and pulled in 12 rebounds, Sabonis was also able to avoid extended foul trouble after picking up two early fouls. He had just one more foul the rest of the night.
Just six games in, it’s impossible to gauge what the Oladipo/Sabonis pairing will mean for the Pacers through the upcoming months, but the honeymoon period has been a blast. Oladipo is averaging 25.5 points per game on 50% shooting and Sabonis averaging a double double on a staggering 66% from the floor.
As a whole, the starting unit led the way for the Pacers to secure the win. Bojan Bogdanovic had 15 points, finding consistency in his three point shot, hitting three, and Thaddeus Young hit a pair of his own for 12 points. Indiana’s issues unfortunately came from the bench, getting outscored 29-17.
As mentioned earlier, McMillan extended the rotation to 10 players, adding in Joe Young to the guard rotation with Cory Joseph and Lance Stephenson. The trio scored 10, both Young and Stephenson hitting a three for all of their points, but there was no cohesion in the play, and the trio was a disaster in the early fourth quarter as the Spurs took the lead.
Indiana evens up their record at 3-3, completing a tough trio of games against quality Western Conference opponents with a winning record. The Pacers have one more Western opponent to face at home before taking part in a road heavy schedule for three weeks, hosting the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday.