The Indiana Pacers pieced together a stubborn second half to keep the San Antonio Spurs at bay for an impressive road win. The Pacers took the lead for good in the second quarter, building a 17-point lead early in the fourth quarter and coming up with key plays to keep the Spurs from erasing all of it, getting the Pacers a rare win in San Antonio.
It was a minor miracle that the Pacers were even in the game early, when their recent shooting woes led them a 32% shooting performance. But extra opportunities through rebounding and turnovers allowed the Pacers to stay within five despite the Spurs shooting 56%.
With the Pacers down 32-27 in the second, Lance Stephenson kickstarted an Indiana run with an assist and pullup jumper to cut the lead to one. Victor Oladipo put the Pacers on top with 11 of his game high 19 points closing the half. The Pacers as a team looked tentative with their shooting until that stretch, seeming to shake off the rust to give the Pacers some much needed confidence.
In the third quarter, the Pacers never allowed the Spurs to regain control of the game, responding to each San Antonio push in the first half of the quarter before eventually seizing control on a 20-6 run to go up by 15. In the fourth, the Pacers would lead by 16, but an 8-0 run by the Spurs to counter put them back in back within striking distance with five minutes remaining.
The Spurs would trim two more points off that lead, but key plays from Cory Joseph would prove the difference, first as a steal and save against Kyle Anderson that would eventually set up a Thaddeus Young young tip-in to push Indiana ahead by nine. With just over 90 seconds left in the game, Patty Mills hit a three to cut the lead to six until Joseph pulled up for a big corner three that would act as the game’s dagger.
There wasn’t a huge statistical boost from the bench, but the Pacers got big minutes from their second unit in terms of the effort they brought. Joseph finished with nine on 4-8 shooting, but each of his four baskets felt huge, pushing the tide in Indiana’s favor with the composure the Pacers brought Joseph in to display.
Stephenson also looked more like himself with a nine point night, pulling in eight rebounds and dishing three assists. All three assists came in the first half, helping the Pacers to key buckets that kept them alive at a time when they really struggled with scoring.
Al Jefferson also had a solid outing, scoring nine points with seven rebounds, getting up for a big dunk to push the lead to 17.
The Pacers broke out of a slump of sorts, but still struggled with shooting. As a team, they were just 4-19 from three point range, missing their first seven of the game. They finished at 44.6% shooting for the game, capitalizing on 14 steals and forcing 20 Spurs turnovers to score 17 off those turnovers.
Four Pacers starters came up with three steals each, all leading to double figure nights. Darren Collison scored 15 on 6-12 shooting while Bojan Bogdanovic finished with 10. Thaddeus Young had a 14-point night to go with seven rebounds, four assists, and his three steals. While the starters didn’t shoot well or control the ball well (with Oladipo’s six costly turnovers), the overall effort of the Pacers helped push them to the victory, including shooting 16-17 from the free throw line.
While the Pacers were able to come up with the win, the game was reminiscent of Indiana’s loss to the Lakers in that the Pacers weren’t doing as well as the Spurs were doing the opposite of well. San Antonio had their way on the offensive glass throughout the night, but struggled to capitalize on them, only scoring six second chance points through the first three quarters.
Even still, the Pacers became the first team to sweep the Spurs since Houston and Oklahoma City did so in the 2013-14 season and it was the first Indiana sweep of the Spurs since the 1994-95 campaign. The win wrapped up a 3-2 road trip for the Pacers, one that looked hopeless after the struggles they had in both Portland and Los Angeles, but it sets up the Pacers nicely for an eight game stretch where six games will be at home.
Five of the next six games will come against non-playoff teams, starting with the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. The Suns will be on the tail end of their own four game road trip and will be looking for revenge after getting the brakes beaten off them last Sunday.