San Antonio Spurs Survive Push from Pacers for First Win

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Josh Richardson led the San Antonio Spurs over the Indiana Pacers
October 21, 2022, Indianapolis, IN: during the first quarter against the Indiana Pacers at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana Friday, October 21, 2022. (Photo by Reginald Thomas II/San Antonio Spurs) https://www.nba.com/spurs/photos/photos-spurs-vs-pacers-10-21?slide=10

What started as a dominant performance from the San Antonio Spurs nearly turned into a nightmare on Friday night in Indianapolis. The Spurs (1-1) at one point led by 20 points thanks to a dominant shooting performance from beyond the arc. Eventually, however, the Pacers (0-2) were able to push San Antonio inside the perimeter, and hack their way back – literally.

From the opening tip, the Spurs were in control of the game, though it did get close at times. Rookie Jeremy Sochan scored the night’s first points off of a layup in his second consecutive start. It wasn’t long, however, until San Antonio took their game inside-out, shooting with relative ease from beyond the arc. By halftime, the Spurs had connected on 12 three-point attempts, leading by 15 points, 70-55. They would lead by as many as 21 points on the evening.

All credit to the Pacers, they played San Antonio tight coming out of the break. They had a strong game plan for the final frame.

Not All Fun and Games

At the 5:19 mark in the fourth quarter and trailing 116-102, Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle employed a “Hack-a-Shaq” approach. More appropriately dubbed “Hack-a-Jak” by Project Spurs’ Paul Garcia, the goal was to slow down San Antonio’s offense. A career 50 percent shooter from the free throw line, Poeltl is an easy target for such a tactic. Teams will willingly trade one point on the defensive end to pick up two on the other end.

Poeltl shot rather effectively under the pressure making 10 of the 16 shots to keep the Pacers at bay. Nonetheless, by the time he was subbed out with a minute left in the fourth quarter, Indiana had closed the gap to just eight points, 133-125. With the seven-footer off the court, San Antonio lost a serious size advantage just as they started getting sloppy with the ball as well.

In the final 57 seconds, the Spurs committed three turnovers and two Josh Richardson fouls turned into six free points for Indiana. It got down to a one-point game with six seconds left, but miscommunication or just lack of experience saw the Pacers waste precious seconds on the clock as they didn’t commit a foul as time ticked away.

That Winning Feeling

The win must feel good for the young Spurs, especially seeing their shots go in. As a team, San Antonio shot 54 percent from the field as well as from the perimeter. For a moment there, it looked like the team might chase down the franchise record for three-point makes in a game (20), missing it by just three. The performance stands in stark contrast to their opening night contest with the Charlotte Hornets where they connected on 40 percent of their shots and 20 percent from deep.

Josh Richardson led the team in scoring with 27 points, tying his career-high. He powered the attack from the perimeter, making six of his eight three-point attempts, and shooting 61 percent for the game. Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell each had 23 points, matching the other with 12 points from beyond the arc. With 21 points, Poeltl was the fourth Spur to put up 20 points, scoring 13 from the charity strip alone.

Indiana was led by Tyrese Haliburton who recorded the game’s only double-double. He had 27 points and 12 rebounds as he tried to will his team to victory with 18 fourth-quarter points. Haliburton was nearly perfect in the final frame, connecting on five of his six shots from the floor while hitting all seven of his free throw attempts. His lone missed shot was a running three-point attempt with a minute left in the game. Coming off the bench, Bennedict Mathurin had a great game with 26 points. Had the heave he made from the corner at the end of the game gone in, he may have been the night’s hero.

Up Next for the San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio hopes to move above .500 on the young season this Saturday night as they head to Philadelphia to play the 76ers (0-2) who are looking for their first win of the season. The Eastern Conference contenders are coming off of consecutive losses to the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks. Hungry for a win, the young Spurs surely look appetizing to the sixers who are led by All-Stars Joel Embiid and James Harden. The game will be broadcast on NBA TV, with tip-off scheduled for 5 p.m. CST.

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