The winning streak marches on for the Indiana Pacers, closing strong in the clutch to top the San Antonio Spurs. After falling behind by four halfway through the fourth, the Pacers defense, spearheaded by Myles Turner, closed the game on an 18-9 run to win their fourth straight.
The win was secured once again thanks to Turner, following up a pair of dagger threes against Portland and Cleveland with a dagger block against Trey Lyles.
It capped a masterful defensive performance from Turner, who had four blocks on the night. Turner was a force especially in the third quarter as the Pacers built a somewhat comfortable 15-point advantage late in the period. Unfortunately, costly turnovers and hot shooting allowed the Spurs to turn the game back in their favor, cutting the lead in half at the end of the quarter and eventually taking their first lead of the second half on an 18-6 run to start the fourth.
Domantas Sabonis struggled all night after colliding with Turner, but came to life in the last half of the fourth, scoring nine of his 14 in the last six minutes of the game. It wasn’t pretty by any stretch, but he fought through his struggles to pick up all four of his offensive rebounds in the final quarter, leading to five, crucial second chance points.
Sabonis’s fight around the rim late was part of another solid all around game from the Pacers, where timely contributions overcame earlier struggles to complete the win. Malcolm Brogdon in particular led the Pacers with 26 points and seven assists, almost a surprise given how adept he was at pounding the rock to little avail tonight.
He still managed to turn some of those dribble-heavy possessions into positives, including one of his two threes early in the third to push Indiana’s lead into double figures. His first three came at the end of the first half, scoring five points in the final minute to turn a four-point Pacers advantage into a nine-point one at the break.
Three point shooting was a key stat for both teams, surprisingly so given the lack makes they each boast on a nightly basis. The Spurs jumped out to a 10-0 lead, proceeding to hit eight of their first nine, putting them up by as many as nine in the second quarter. Fortunately for the Pacers, they were able to weather the onslaught, responding in kind thanks to the contributions of Justin Holiday and Doug McDermott.
McDermott in particular was in a zone, bringing his road shooting success to San Antonio, hitting four threes in the first half, the first two halting the Spurs’ advantage to nine, the final triple pushing Indiana ahead by 10. Holiday on the other hand was timely all night. His three triples (and one shot inside) all came at opportune times in weathering a San Antonio push.
The collision of Turner and Sabonis early sent Turner out of the game. He was questionable to return, though he did come back into the game quickly. He said at halftime that he “got his bell rung,” but knew his team needed him. He didn’t show any ill-effects of a potential injury, scoring 17 points on 6-10 shooting to go with his four blocks, including this nifty dunk in the second quarter.
Sabonis meanwhile looked to be the one affected by the collision. With LaMarcus Aldridge out for the Spurs, Sabonis appeared prime for a big night, but simply wasn’t in tune with the game at all until the final half of the fourth quarter, finishing with a 14 point, 11 rebound double double. His lone basket of the first half was a nifty dunk of his own, an ode to the freedom of dunking, throwing down a Statue of Liberty jam in transition.
While many of the Pacers stumbled around with ups and downs throughout the night, T.J. Warren was the calming force for Indiana all night. Warren had 23 points on 8-14 shooting, getting there in transition, off of set passes, or in predictably unpredictable ways.
This is the TJ Warren I wrote about - a guy who can hit literally any shot: pic.twitter.com/Wx5pj2pecp— Tony East (@TEastNBA) March 3, 2020
Not only was Warren locked in on the offensive end, he did an impressive job on the defensive side as well, limiting DeMar DeRozan to just 10 points on 4-10 shooting. It was a season low for DeRozan, who went scoreless in the first half.
Indiana held an advantage over the Spurs in most areas and where they didn’t, they managed to at least keep pace. San Antonio finished the night with 16 threes, edging the Pacers by a single make. What could’ve been a disastrous night from behind the arc became something they could use to capitalize in other areas, be it points off turnovers (24-15) or at the free throw line (23-15).
It was enough to put Indiana on top in San Antonio for the third straight time. What was once an automatic loss has become the longest winning streak against the Spurs since 1996 and just the fourth such streak dating back to the days of the Texas Chaparrals.
ABA trivia aside, the Pacers improve to 2-0 on their five game road trip, setting them up for a winning trip with just one more win in their next three. That won’t be a lock, especially as their next opponent is the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. The Bucks, who haven’t lost back-to-back regular season games in a full calendar year, will be locked in after a lopsided defeat in Miami tonight. Nor is it likely the Bucks have forgotten the loss to Indiana just prior to the All-Star Break. Should be interesting.