At some point, the Spurs (4-1) would have a clunker considering they are still playing without starters Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. That finally happened Friday night in Orlando, where San Antonio was outscored 14-4 in the final 3:28 of the first quarter and never recovered in a 114-87 defeat.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 points and 11 rebounds, but his teammates shot a horrid 28 percent (21 for 75). The Spurs also broke down defensively as the Magic shot a blistering 57.1 percent after holding opponents to 42.5 percent in their 4-0 start.
Indiana (2-3) continues to be inconsistent from game to game as it plays without starting center Myles Turner, who will miss his fifth straight game due to a concussion suffered in the season opener. After shooting 66.7 percent in routing the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Tuesday, the Pacers were held to 33.7 percent shooting in a 114-96 defeat at Oklahoma City the following night.
Victor Oladipo scored a season-high 35 points and hit 5 of 8 from 3-point range. Darren Collison and Thaddeus Young combined for another 32, but the rest of their teammates made just 7 of 41 shots.
Domantas Sabonis has typified Indiana’s inconsistency offensively. He went 1 for 9 against the Thunder after making 13 of 17 shots his previous two games.
Three keys to the game
Can I get some help here? - Both teams need some balance to help out their stars. Second-year point guard Dejounte Murray played well in his first three games for the Spurs, but he's shot a combined 2 for 15 in the last two games. Rudy Gay and Danny Green both endured off nights in Orlando, so they may be more pivotal in San Antonio getting back on track. It may have also been a one-off for the Pacers given the struggles of Sabonis and Bogdanovic, but it's also something to keep an eye on as Turner continues to miss time.
Points in the paint - San Antonio and Indiana are tied for seventh offensively with 48.8 points in the paint per game through games played Friday. Defensively, the Spurs are in the middle of the pack and the Pacers are 29th by allowing 52.8 points per game. This is where Turner is missed most as Sabonis and Young struggle to contain opponents, and Indiana is also 25th defensively in 2-point shooting percentage (52.7). San Antonio may make it a point to flow its offense through Pau Gasol and have players cut to the basket to force Indiana to over-rotate defensively.
Move the ball - After committing just 22 turnovers in their first two games, the Spurs have almost as many turnovers (53) as they do assists (56) in the last three. And no one player has an inordinate amount though backup point guard Patty Mills has 14 assists and 11 turnovers after entering the season with a career 2.33 assist-to-turnover ratio. San Antonio is also struggling from 3-point range (29.8 percent), which is increasing pressure on the half-court offense to find high-percentage shots.
Matchup to watch
Spurs PF LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Pacers PF Thaddeus Young - Aldridge has a three-inch height advantage over Young, and given how Indiana struggles defensively in the frontcourt, the Spurs big man may do as much damage in the mid-range game as he does in the low block. Aldridge is 11 for 17 on shots from 10 to 14 feet and would be well served getting into the paint since his percentage inside of five feet (61.1) and 10 to 14 feet is better than his percentage on shots from five to nine feet. Additionally, the Pacers have given up an average of 37.2 points in the paint when Young is on the court, so look for Murray and Mills to pound the ball inside for San Antonio.
San Antonio Spurs projected starting lineup
PG Dejounte Murray | SG - Danny Green | C - Paul Gasol | SF - Rudy Gay | PF - LaMarcus Aldridge
Indiana Pacers projected starting lineup
PG - Darren Collison | SG - Victor Oladipo | C - Domantas Sabonis | SF - Bojan Bogdanovic | PF - Thaddeus Young
Gay could be more likely than Green to have a bounce-back game as he's averaged 23.3 points on 49.5 percent shooting in his last six games against Indiana. Green, meanwhile, is a 28.4 percent shooter in 13 lifetime games versus the Pacers and has not scored more than 12 points in any game against them.
Though San Antonio has won six of the last seven games between the teams, Indiana has won against the spread five times in that span, and five of the seven games have been decided by eight or fewer points. The Spurs enter this contest as a 7-point favorite but also are 2-5 against the spread in their last seven trips to Indiana. The over/under has moved up three points since opening at 204, which is an intriguing play because Indiana has reached 210 in all five games it has played. Even if the Pacers shoot 45 percent, they should reach 207 with the Spurs.
If the Spurs can find proper offensive spacing in the frontcourt with Aldridge and Gasol, they should be able to score early and often in the paint, where the Pacers are soft without Turner.
Indiana, in turn, can create mismatches with its speed in the backcourt in Oladipo and Collison. Whichever team has its third scorer in rhythm will likely emerge as the victor, and that should be the Spurs with Rudy Gay. It likely will be close as most of the games have been between the teams in Indiana, with San Antonio holding on for a 109-104 victory.
This game will be televised locally by Fox Sports Indiana and Fox Sports Southwest. Tip off time is 4:30 pm EDT.
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