The Indiana Pacers dropped a heartbreaker to the San Antonio Spurs with Kawhi Leonard hitting a game-winning turnaround to send the Pacers back into the loss column. The Pacers led 99-98 in the final minute with the Spurs offense going ice cold, but a series of scrambling plays led to Monta Ellis missing two crucial free throws with nine seconds remaining.
Paul George led the way for the Pacers with 22 points, shooting just 5-18 from the floor, but working his way to the line for a perfect 10-10 night. The Pacers felt the officiating got a little testy late, especially after Manu Ginobili pushed George out of bounds in the final minute, but got the “wily veteran” benefit of the doubt to save possession for San Antonio.
The lack of foul there turned into a foul by Ginobili on the following play. The only issue was that it didn’t put Indiana into the penalty. A swarming Spurs defense set up a loose ball on the next play that wound up in Ellis’s hands. Ellis was fouled trying to pass the ball to Jeff Teague, but the whistle was too quick, sending Ellis to the free throw line, to miss two, erasing an otherwise solid night from Ellis, who had 11.
The missed free throws (two of seven) ultimately did Indiana in, but it was their inability to close out quarters before that that created such a scenario to begin with. In the final 90 seconds of all four quarters, the Spurs outscored the Pacers 18-3. In a game as closely contested as this one, it ended up being the one distinct advantage for either team.
In the end, the Pacers had every opportunity to make this a win, including scoring 24 points off of 18 San Antonio turnovers and topping the Spurs in the rebounding game (including 13 offensive rebounds), but each chance becomes amplified because of how the game was lost.
Ellis was the bench’s only double figure scorer. Kevin Seraphin found time with a lot of front court foul trouble, scoring eight, but a scoreless night from Rodney Stuckey didn’t help, nor did numerous fouls from Rakeem Christmas. The Pacers had no answer for David Lee, who was a perfect 8-8 for 18 points, allowing the Spurs bench a 50-31 win.
Indiana was the worst three point shooting team as well. C.J. Miles was 4-10 and George was 2-7, the two totaling six of Indiana’s seven three pointers. San Antonio shot just 9-29, but improvement in preventing threes hasn’t resulted in a consistent increase in actually hitting threes.
Leonard meanwhile came up strong to end the game, finishing with a game high 31 points and 10 rebounds, finishing at 50% shooting, though the Pacers were all fairly consistent in believing he traveled on the turnaround jumper. Feel free to judge for yourself.
The moral of the story, travel or no travel, however, is that the Pacers put themselves in position for the officials to bail them out, which is never a smart investment. The two-minute report may give Indiana a chance to point and yell, but tonight’s game will still be a loss.
Even still, tonight’s effort will lead to more wins than losses, and it will be up to the Pacers to make sure that’s the case. They’ll have extra time to stew on this one, as they won’t tip off again until Sunday, when they face the Atlanta Hawks in the fourth game of their five game road trip.