INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — San Antonio struggled when Indiana turned up the pressure late.
Then the Spurs made one defensive stop to avoid a second straight embarrassing result.
After nearly blowing a double-digit lead in the closing minutes, Josh Richardson forced rookie Bennedict Mathurin into an airball as the buzzer sounded to preserve a 137-134 victory at Indiana on Friday night.
“We’re not exactly ready for full-court pressure this early in the season,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “The last four or five minutes when we were going one-on-one were pretty terrible, but it’s always sweet to get a win on the road.”
Richardson didn’t just make the defensive play of the game. He scored 27 points and Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson each had 23. Jakob Poeltl finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Indiana was led by Tyrese Haliburton’s 27 points and 12 assists. Mathurin scored 26 points. The Pacers have not led in either of their games this season after finishing last season with 10 consecutive losses. Their last win came March 20.
The game featured two of the NBA’s most successful coaches — Popovich and Rick Carlisle, who started the night with a combined 2,205 career wins. But with two of the league’s youngest teams, it wasn’t pretty.
San Antonio, which never trailed, led by double figures most of the game after taking an early 36-26 lead and appeared to be cruising when they led 128-115 with 3:28 left in the game.
Instead, a series of miscues in the final minute of regulation allowed Indiana to make it a one-possession game. Haliburton made three free throws with 23.5 seconds to go and then Indiana forced a turnover on the Spurs’ ensuing possession. But rather than passing for a 3-pointer on the fast break, Haliburton drove to the basket for a layup to make it 135-134 with 3.8 seconds left.
San Antonio closed it out with two free throws and the defensive stop.
“We’ve got to play harder,” Haliburton said. “We’re not going to press for the whole game like that. We can’t do that, so we’ve just got to play harder.”
Spurs: San Antonio shot 54.3% from the field. … Since Popovich took over as coach early in the 1996-97 season, the Spurs have lost their first two games in a season once — when they started 0-3 in 2008-09. They finished 54-28. … Nineteen-year-old Josh Primo had seven assists.
Pacers: Isaiah Jackson had 16 points and six rebounds, and Buddy Hield had 13 points. … Myles Turner missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle. Turner is expected to miss at least a week. … Rookie Andrew Nembhard, a second-round pick, scored 14 points in his debut.
Pacers coach Rick Carlisle took a few minutes before the game to offer condolences to the family of former referee Tony Brown, who died Thursday. Carlisle said he was one of many people from the league who spoke with Brown as he battled pancreatic cancer.
“He was a wonderful human being and a terrific referee,” Carlisle said. “Any time you talked to him you could just tell he had a smile on his face. Our hearts go out to his wife, Tina, and their three children. I just want to urge anyone that’s interested in supporting the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network … I’ve been a supporter since 2009.”
The Spurs put on a 3-point shooting clinic Friday. They topped the 60% mark in the first half and wound up 17 of 31 from beyond the arc. Six players made 3s, led by Richardson with six. Vassell and Johnson each had four 3s.
“When they started the game, it seemed like every shot they took went in,” Haliburton said, explaining how the Pacers can get off to better starts.
Spurs: Make their second stop on a four-game trip Saturday at Philadelphia.
Pacers: Host Detroit on Saturday before starting a five-game trip.