The Indiana Pacers brought their three game losing streak to an end, topping the San Antonio Spurs in the front half of the weekend road trip. After a quick start for the Spurs, Indiana went up for good on a 7-0 run, extending their lead to eight at the end of the first quarter.
Duane Washington Jr. led the way early in the second quarter, hitting three consecutive triples to push the game into double figures. It was a freewheeling exhibition for both teams in the first half before Indiana put the clamps down on the defensive end, using a 24-9 run to take a game high 19-point lead.
It took no time at all, however, for San Antonio to slice off a large chunk of that advantage, scoring 14 straight in two minutes to cut the lead to five. Tyrese Haliburton halted the run to end the half and to Indiana’s credit, they were able to regain composure in the third quarter to push the lead back out to 18 midway through the period.
From that point, the game would ebb and flow between 10-20 points, each Pacers run met with a Spurs response. San Antonio’s final push came with 4:34 remaining, when Devin Vassell made it a 12-point game at 113-101. Indiana forced stops on the next three possessions, including a block from Jalen Smith and a steal and drought breaking bucket from Buddy Hield.
The Pacers finished the night with an 11-point win, sweeping the season series against the Spurs. Indiana hit 14 threes and went a perfect 15-15 from the line, their second such game of the year. All nine rotation players scored, nearly eight in double figures. Though the game was hardly steady, it was a solid all around performance from the Pacers, taking advantage of a short-handed San Antonio roster.
Washington and Haliburton led the way with 19 each. Washington got there with efficiency, hitting his first seven shots, including 3-3 from deep. He did a great job taking advantage of the breakdowns on defense, including a nice dunk late in the first quarter as the lead began to swell.
Haliburton meanwhile was a bit less efficient, going 8-17 overall though he did shoot well from deep at 3-5. He finished with a double double with 10 assists, including three steals for good measure. He did have four of Indiana’s 12 turnovers, however, getting a bit too loose with some of his passes at times.
Hield pitched in with 17 on a night where he struggled shooting, going just 3-12 from deep. He did dish six assists and pull in five boards, all six assists going to different players, including Isaiah Jackson to open the third quarter. Jackson had 15 and five rebounds, blocking two shots, throwing down some massive jams and steadying himself at the line, going 5-5.
Chris Duarte scored 15 himself, going 5-9 (3-5 from three) with eight rebounds. Four of those five buckets were courtesy of Haliburton, setting Duarte up in great position to make solid looks from three especially. Oshae Brissett had nine points and seven rebounds.
The Pacers did a fairly poor job keeping San Antonio off the glass, but did do a good job keeping them from capitalizing on it. Despite losing the offensive rebound battle 15-9, Indiana did outscore the Spurs 19-12 in second chance points. Goga Bitadze had four of those boards, each of them leading to points.
Bitadze continued his positive play with 10 points and seven rebounds, even stepping up on the defensive end with some actual rim protection that had been conspicuously absent in his game for a good portion of the season. He finished with four blocks, a season high. Smith also blocked four shots, finishing the low man in scoring with six, but pulling in a game best 11 boards.
Keifer Sykes picked up back up guard minutes tonight, playing very well with nine points on 3-6 shooting and three assists to wrap up a 44-point bench effort, a total that was actually on the losing side thanks to big nights from Jock Landale (26 points) and Lonnie Walker IV (20 points). The ability of the bench to minimize their performances, Landale’s especially, helped keep the game from getting too competitive.
Often long layoffs like the Pacers just had will result in a lackluster showings, but to Indiana’s credit, they played tonight like a team that was well-rested and ready to go. The Spurs didn’t exactly put forth their most formidable lineup, sitting out Dejuante Murray and Jakob Poeltl, in addition to losing Doug McDermott in the opening minutes, but Indiana took care of business to come out on top.
The Pacers will head East for the second half of a back-to-back, facing the Atlanta Hawks tomorrow evening. It’ll be the first of two meetings in the next two weeks or so with the Pacers currently sitting at 0-2 on the year against the Hawks.