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Pacers final score: Spurs bully Pacers 110-99

Indiana provided no match for San Antonio’s effort, getting blown out in the third quarter, snapping a two game winning streak. Buddy Hield scored 27.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at San Antonio Spurs Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports

At the 6:54 mark of the second quarter, the Indiana Pacers, led by George Hill and Chris Duarte, ran off eight straight points to take a 44-33 lead. That run was itself a response to a 10-2 run by the San Antonio Spurs, the first real signs of life from San Antonio after a successful first quarter by the Pacers.

Out of a timeout, the Spurs took charge. They responded with five straight and tied the game at 46-46. Indiana did manage to push things back out to six, but they didn’t realize at the time they were already finished. The Spurs cut the lead to two heading into the break and scored the first 11 of the third quarter, taking a nine-point lead.

The opening possession of the third set the tone for the rest of the game, with the Spurs getting five cracks at the basket despite two blocks from Myles Turner in the process. They didn’t score on the possession, but the message was sent: Indiana wasn’t going to be able to keep up with San Antonio’s energy, even despite warnings from the coaching staff.

Jeremy Sochan was the catalyst for the home team’s effort, scoring 10 points in the third with six rebounds, helping the Spurs to a dominating third quarter, outscoring the Pacers 31-16 to take full control of the game. The Pacers were particularly hapless in that quarter, their meager 16 points coming on a shockingly bad 3-10 shooting in the restricted area.

The Spurs would effectively put the game on ice midway through the quarter, extending their lead out to 18 points on Devonte’ Graham’s fourth three pointer. The Pacers did cut into the deficit with an 8-0 run, featuring threes from Duarte and Buddy Hield, but that would be their best shot, unable to get much closer, ultimately suffering their first road loss of their four-game road trip.

This was one of the worst outings of the year for the Pacers, entering the fourth quarter with just 70 points after averaging 95 points in the three game since the return of the All-Star break. A big reason for that was the absence of Tyrese Haliburton, out with a sore right calf. If you’re at all wondering how the Pacers are just 2-11 without Haliburton, look no further than this game, though viewer discretion must be advised.

Indiana moved Hill into the starting lineup tonight and while the Pacers led 29-21 after the first quarter, he had just a block in his first run. He would pick up his scoring afterwards, finishing with seven, which would unfortunately be the third highest scorer among the starters.

Hield and Turner helped give Indiana their early first quarter success, combining for 20 in the quarter, 13 from Hield. They combined for just four points in the middle two quarters, however as the Spurs opened up and took control of things. Both picked up their scoring again in the fourth, allowing Hield to finish with 27 and Turner to wrap things up with 14 points, blocking three shots.

Needing some kind of boost with Haliburton out, Andrew Nembhard provided none of it, continuing his seemingly month long struggles with an 0-8 shooting night, scoring four with two assists. Aaron Nesmith, meanwhile, blanked all together, missing all four of his attempts. Their 22 assists as a team was tied for fifth lowest, a unique death knell in Indiana’s chances of winnings, dropping them to 2-14 when they dish under 24 assists.

Even T.J. McConnell couldn’t get much of an assist boost going, finishing with 10, though he did lead the way with four steals, but Indiana wasn’t able to fully capitalize on a 19-14 advantage in points off turnovers due to poor defense in the paint, allowing 62, and struggling to contain the Spurs in transition, allowing them to score 16.

Chris Duarte led the bench with 18 points, nearing a double double with nine rebounds while Jordan Nwora provided some fourth quarter points, finishing with 10. Bennedict Mathurin scored seven, but had his minutes limited in part due to some very poor stretches of play, committing three turnovers on the night.

Rick Carlisle continues to switch the backup big in perplexing ways, eschewing Jalen Smith’s recent success for backup minutes for Isaiah Jackson. Jackson had six rebounds with a pair of blocks, but was ineffective as a scorer, dropping just two on 1-6 shooting. Smith’s play could’ve helped. Indiana totaled six offensive rebounds, scoring just six second chance points. Smith has pulled in six offensive rebounds the past two games. Perhaps that doesn’t carry over in this one given the general malaise from the Pacers, but it seems odd to just make the switch on a dime.

This isn’t even to put the blame on Jackson. Jackson had played well himself of late, averaging 10 points in the three games prior to him getting swapped out for Smith in this fashion. What the plan is for these two is becoming a complete mystery and will become even less comprehensible should Daniel Theis be on this carousel as well.

Beyond whatever the backup center plan is, this was a game lacking in all on-court aspects, though the Pacers did great off the court, paying former media relations director David Benner tribute by wearing Benner-themed hoodies following the beloved Benner’s passing.

The Pacers will be back in action on Sunday, when they wrap up their four game road trip against the Chicago Bulls. The Pacers have a pair of thrilling comeback wins over Chicago, giving them the shot at the season series win. The game will have an early 3:30 p.m. Eastern tip.