SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Victor Oladipo and the Indiana Pacers nearly made Spurs coach Gregg Popovich ill.
Oladipo had 21 points, Indiana had 34 assists and the Pacers led for all but the opening seconds in a 116-96 victory over San Antonio on Wednesday night.
Popovich joked before the game that San Antonio’s defense might land him in the emergency room. Oladipo and the sharp-shooting Pacers had no trouble finding space to fire away.
“We moved the ball,” Oladipo said. “I think when we move the ball, it kind of translates to being in unison and being together on the defensive end as well. When everybody feels good, everybody’s touching (the ball), everybody wants to defend.”
The Pacers limited the Spurs to 6-for-19 shooting on 3-pointers while leading by as many as 29 points.
Defense has been the foundation of San Antonio’s five NBA Championships and 21 straight postseason appearances, but they are struggling to maintain that consistency with an overhauled roster.
“We have a lot of work to do on both ends of the court, and we know that, especially defensively,” Popovich said. “We’re defensively challenged, so to speak. Until we figure it out, there’s a lot of habits that have to be formed.”
Seven Pacers scored in double figures, including 19 points by Tyreke Evans and 16 by Domantas Sabonis.
Oladipo led the team with nine assists, and nine others had at least one.
“When you have that type of ball movement, you’re hitting guys and you’re making the defense work and you’re playing to your third and fourth option,” Indiana coach Nate McMillan said. “A lot of times, you’re going to get some open looks, and they can shoot the ball when they’re open.”
DeMar DeRozan had 18 points to lead the Spurs, his lowest total since joining the team in an offseason trade from Toronto. Marco Belinelli added 16 points and LaMarcus Aldridge and Bryn Forbes had 15 each.
DeRozan said the Spurs are still adapting to one another.
“Communication thing, understanding spots, understanding tendencies, understanding terminology,” DeRozan said of what the team needs to work on. “It’s kind of a little bit of everything. It’s a new group, we still haven’t gotten rolling offensively like we want, and defensively as well. So, once we get both them two things clicking, we’re going to be all right.”
The Pacers dominated with a strong combination of inside muscle and outside shooting.
Indiana shot 53 percent on 3-pointers, opening the game 9 for 11 on 3s.
Sabonis also had a monstrous dunk against Spurs forward Davis Bertans early in the second quarter, winding up and dunking with his left hand around the reach of a leaping Bertans.
The Spurs only lead came when Rudy Gay scored the game’s opening points on an 11-foot fadeaway jumper. Gay finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Pacers: Indiana entered the game second in the NBA by shooting 43 percent on 3-pointers. ... The Pacers held an opponent under 100 points for the second time this season.
Spurs: Forbes is the first starting point guard for the Spurs other than Tony Parker to score in double figures in each of his first four games since Maurice Cheeks in 1989. ... The Spurs played their 1,700th game in San Antonio. They are 1,270-429 at home, which is the best home record of any team in league history.
Popovich had high praise for McMillan, who will be one of his assistants when the Spurs’ veteran coach leads Team USA.
“He’s a class act from top to bottom,” Popovich said of McMillan. “He’s knowledgeable, he’s really experienced in USA Basketball, he’s got great demeanor, he’s very, very well respected and ... I think that’s enough. I think those are all pretty good reasons why I was hoping he would agree to do it, so, I was thrilled when he decided he would do it.”
Oladipo is not reading too much into the Spurs’ early struggles defensively.
“It’s a new year,” Oladipo said. “It’s only the fourth, fifth game of the year. So, you as a media, you’ve got to kind of analyze all that, but them as players and coaching staff, they’ve just got to keep getting better and they’ll be fine.”
Pacers: At Cleveland on Saturday night.
Spurs: Host L.A. Lakers on Saturday night.
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