In 2013-14, the Spurs simply dismantled the Pelicans in four games by an average of 12 points. To be fair, New Orleans actually had a chance to win not once but twice, yet they fell apart in both fourth quarters. Modus operandi for our New Orleans team that finished 23rd in 2nd half scoring differential.
Will it continue?
Well, it would appear Lady Luck is not on the Pelicans side. On Thursday, Gregg Popovich decided to give Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili a rest on the second night of a back-to-back. The Spurs ended up getting thrashed by the Rockets on national television.
With a 2-2 record, after finishing 1-4 in preseason, the Spurs have no doubt come out of the gates slowly. In their two wins, they won by a combined 3 points. If just a couple of possessions had gone differently, they could conceivably still be looking for their first win of the regular season.
Why have the Spurs gotten off to such a slow start?
Although it's likely several factors are at play, team chemistry appears to be at the forefront thanks to a lot of bothersome injuries. Kawhi Leonard dealt with an eye infection in preseason, causing him to miss a lot of time. Coming off a leg stress fracture, Ginobili's conditioning hasn't been where he'd like it to be. Tiago Splitter has only played 10 regular season minutes due to a balky calf and Marco Belinelli recently suffered a groin strain. Lastly, Patty Mills is going to be out for some time due to a shoulder injury.
Remember that last season, the Spurs played a large rotation, one where no player averaged more than thirty minutes a game. Removing or limiting five key cogs in Pop's attack will have an effect. Thus, it shouldn't come as a surprise then the Spurs currently have the 4th worst offensive rating. That's a far cry from a season ago where they finished with the 6th best figure in that category.
3 Keys to Victory
- Make Shots. Despite the Spurs early season struggles, their defense remains stout. Essentially, they are allowing opponents the same effective field goal percentage, grabbing defensive rebounds at a great rate and refusing to put players on the free throw line just like in 2013-14. If the Pelicans want to pull off the upset, they're going to have to shoot markedly better than their 29th rated eFG of 43.7%.
- Force Turnovers. If the Pelicans shot doesn't do a complete 180 degree turn, they're going to have to manufacture points from elsewhere. Through four games, the Spurs are averaging 18 turnovers a game. (That's over 6 more a game than the Pelicans). The Pelicans should seek to to punish them by piling on the fast break points too.
- Seek the Offensive Rebound. Just like above, the Pelicans will likely need a plan B and C in case the majority of their shots don't drop. Although the Spurs sit in the top-6 in defensive rebounding percentage, the Pelicans shouldn't be deterred from crashing the glass after misses. After all, they average a league-best 16.2 offensive rebounds a game and managed to nab 14 of them against the Grizzlies.