Pacers fall to Spurs in NBA action
INDIANAPOLIS — In the Pacers’ first two games, they’ve lost their most experienced player to injury in pregame warmups and tied a franchise record for longest losing streak at 12 years, dating back to last season. This time, the San Antonio Spurs jumped out to an early lead and withstood a late charge to win 137-134.
Bennedict Mathurin can lead the Pacers in scoring
He’s coming off the bench for now, but the rookie has played 28 minutes in each of his first two NBA games. Equally important, he has shown a willingness to carry an offensive load. He was just as aggressive Friday as he was in the first game and the preseason. He scored 11 points against the Spurs in his first 13 minutes on the floor and finished with 26.
Tyrese Haliburton has said he wants to score more in his second season at Indiana, but he’s still a point guard. Mathurin is a wing, and through two games he has tended to look for his shot, either via a drive or 3-pointer, almost every time he has the ball. As the Pacers tried to erase a double-digit deficit late, Mathurin brought the ball up the court with Haliburton on the floor. On a rebuilding team, he will get opportunities, especially if the roster looks different after the trade deadline.
The Pacers’ defense suffers for another reason
The Pacers opened the season without center Myles Turner and were consequently swept by the Wizards. It was another ugly game on defense on Friday, but the reason was beyond the pale. The Spurs made 17 of 31 3-point attempts, including 10 of their first 16.
Part of it was bad luck. San Antonio was hot and teams aren’t going to consistently make 50% of their shots from deep. Still, it was a bad sign from a team that struggled to stop opponents last year to the point of emphasizing it in this year’s training camp. The starter wasn’t flawless either. Spurs center Jakob Poeltl had 21 points when the Pacers hacked him, and he made 13 of 21 free throws. The Pacers committed 33 errors, another area coach Rick Carlisle said he wanted to tighten up after Wednesday.
Isaiah Jackson showed what he can do
In the third quarter, 6-10 Isaiah Jackson found himself open on the wing. He drained a 3-pointer that clinked off the rim. Maybe not quite yet.
Jackson worked on his perimeter game over the offseason, but he spent most of Friday demonstrating his strengths. He ran the floor in transition and was rewarded three times with easy dunks, one completely uncontested from Tyrese Haliburton. Jackson added another slam on a put-back near the end of the quarter. He blocked a shot and finished with 16 points and six rebounds.
Jackson has long had the skills to fit into the Pacers’ athletic core. On Friday, he put it into action as a rim-running center with the energy and bounce to impact the game on both ends.
The Pacers are re-energizing
For the second game in a row, the Pacers nearly came back after trailing all night. For the second straight game, it was a result of timely shooting, aggressive offensive rebounding and defense. A Haliburton and-one brought Indiana within 3 points late, and Indiana’s press gave the Spurs trouble.
Late in the first quarter, the Pacers rolled out a lineup of TJ McConnell, Andrew Nembhard, Mathurin, Aaron Nesmith and Jackson. The young, athletic group defended all 94 feet and forced an early turnover. Finally, Goga Bitadze came on for Jackson as the quintet trimmed the Spurs lead to 5 points after it had been in double figures for much of the game. When San Antonio called timeout, McConnell stayed on the court to wave his arms at the crowd.
Nembhard made his first NBA 3-point attempt, but knocked down his next two. Mathurin attempted what would have been a highlight reel dunk and failed to finish but was felled in the process. It was all representative of the current state of the Pacers’ development: the results are uneven, and the process is sometimes ugly, but there are glimpses of potential. Indiana can only hope that consistency will come. Meanwhile, the team plays hard. It plays fast. And in a development season, that’s something.
San Antonio 137, Indiana 134
SAN ANTONIO (137): K.Johnson 8-15 3-4 23, Sochan 2-4 0-0 4, Poeltl 4-6 13-21 21, Jones 6-12 5-6 18, Vassell 7-15 5-6 23, Bates- Diop 2-3 0-0 4, McDermott 1-3 0-0 3, Collins 5-8 0-0 11, Primo 1-2 1-2 3, Richardson 8-13 5-5 27. Total 44-81 32 -44 137.
Indiana (134): Duarte 2-6 0-0 4, Taylor 4-7 0-0 9, Smith 1-3 0-0 2, Haliburton 9-18 8-8 27, Hield 5-9 0-0 13, J.Johnson 1 -3 0-0 2, Jackson 6-9 4-4 16, Bitadze 4-7 0-0 8, Mathurin 8-15 7-8 26, Nembhard 5-12 2-2 14, Nesmith 4-9 0-0 9, McConnell 2-6 0-0 4. Total 51-104 21-22 134.
San Antonio 36 34 32 35 — 137
Indiana 26 29 30 49 — 134
3-pointers – San Antonio 17-31 (Richardson 6-8, Vassell 4-7, K.Johnson 4-9, Collins 1-1, McDermott 1-1, Jones 1-3, Primo 0-1, Sochan 0 – 1), Indiana 11-35 (Hield 3-6, Mathurin 3-6, Nembhard 2-7, Taylor 1-2, Nesmith 1-3, Haliburton 1-5, Duarte 0-1, J.Johnson 0-1 , Jackson 0-1, Smith 0-1, Bitadze 0-2). Failed Out_None. Rebounds_San Antonio 37 (Poeltl 8), Indiana 42 (Taylor 7). Assists_San Antonio 34 (Primo 7), Indiana 32 (Haliburton 12). Total Fouls_San Antonio 22, Indiana 34. A_12,073 (20,000)