The game started off with a bang as both offenses came out on fire. It must have been an omen after the Pelicans first score came off of a Tyreke Evans catch and shoot 3-pointer. After just 4:18 off the clock, the score was already 15-12. The Pelicans didn't relinquish the lead as they managed to build a seven point lead at the end of the first quarter. The main difference was turnovers: the Pelicans had only 1, while the Spurs accumulated a ghastly 8.
In the second quarter, the good shooting continued as the Pelicans matched their first quarter field goal percentage of 50%. However, the defensive rebounding vanished. Never to be confused with an offensive rebounding team, the Spurs collected 7 of them in 12 minutes.
Perhaps a larger problem, the Pelicans had issues with individual players. In the first quarter, Danny Green lit us up with 13 points. In the second quarter, Tony Parker amassed 14 points, 10 of them in the final 2:36. Not surprisingly, the Pelicans enjoyed a slim 55-53 halftime advantage, even though it felt like it should have been a lot more.
In the second half, the Pelicans didn't seize control until there was about 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Evans threw down a dunk and then the Iceman himself, Eric Gordon, got things rolling with his second 3-pointer of the game. The Pelicans finished the third quarter on a 15-5 run and took a double digit lead into the final frame.
The lead was maintained for much of the fourth quarter, yet the Pelicans were not able to seal the deal by missing several layups and making a few turnovers. But how bad could it be? The Spurs called a 20 second timeout and Popovich removed Duncan, Ginobili and Parker with 4:41 remaining in the game.
White flag? Not a chance.
It was as though the Big 3 were some sort of anchor -- the Spurs suddenly scored on five straight possessions to make it a four point game. Following a quick Evans three point attempt out of a timeout, Leonard made it a 2 point game on an open midrange jumper. After a snap pass by Holiday that Davis was unable to handle, Gordon committed an unusual foul on a Green three point attempt -- he apparently kicked his foot out at Green while falling to the ground. Naturally Green converted all 3 free throws and, for the first time since early in the first quarter, the Spurs had a lead.
Thankfully though, Anthony Davis converted on a play drawn up by Monty Williams coming out of a timeout with 12 seconds remaining, and Kawhi Leonard missed on two attempts in the waning moments.
- For his fourth time in five games, Anthony Davis played like an MVP candidate: 27 points, 11 rebounds, 6 blocks and 4 steals. If this type of production continues, it won't be long before people outside of New Orleans starting showering him with more praise. They can't ignore him forever.
- Not to be outdone by AD, Jrue Holiday had himself a game: 15 points, 11 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and it should be 2 blocks. He stopped Kawhi Leonard at the rim and then blocked the Spurs shooting forwards final second 3 point attempt that would have probably won the game.
- Tyreke Evans stat line was solid (18 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists) but for significant portions of the game, he didn't make his presence known. (Have to believe Leonard had something to do with that.) Still, his perimeter shot remains, dare I say, outstanding? Tack on another 2-4 performance from deep and his 3FG% is now at 47.4%. If he keeps this up, it might be the first time a player's off-season work actually goes on to pay the loftiest of dividends.
- Eric Gordon, welcome back to the living. He made his first three looks and finished with 14 points on 6-13 shooting. However, had the Spurs won the game, his offensive breakout might have been all for naught as he lost his footing on the play that resulted in 3 Danny Green free throws. Whether it was a foul or not, fans wouldn't have been that forgiving.
- Monty Williams called a very fine game. From offensive play calling to rotations to timeout management, our staff did an exemplary job. About the only thing one could quibble with was not reinforcing to Davis to not go so early to the rim. Leaving 6 seconds for the Spurs to retake the lead felt like an eternity!
- Austin Rivers and Ryan Anderson were relatively quiet, but it was interesting to see they both entered the game initially each half at the same time for Evans and Omer Asik. It'll be worth watching whether Monty looks to stagger the minutes of the starters after how poorly all five Pelican reserves performed early in the second quarter.
- 58.5 DREB% - The Pelicans gave up 17 offensive rebounds to a team that perennially is among the league worst in OREB%. On the night, they lost the rebounding battle 49-30.
- 20 personal fouls - The Pelicans didn't pick up their first team foul of the night until the final minute of the first quarter and had a total of only 7 for the first half. With 9:36 to go in the 3rd quarter, the Spurs were in the bonus after 4 quick fouls, but fortunately, they only received four free throw attempts during that time frame. Still, the Spurs ended up attempting 15 more free throws.
- 9 points - Danny Green and Tony Parker had 35 points in the 1st half, but only managed 9 in the second half.
The game shouldn't have come down to the final few possessions, but for a team that had so many issues last season closing out the opposition with a win, it was inevitable.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to note was how far apart the Pelicans remain from the Spurs. It took everything we had to ensure we didn't suffer another loss in the final moments. On the other hand, Popovich sat his Big 3 for nearly all of the final five minutes of the game. Despite a rotation that is missing Tiago Splitter, Mario Belinelli and Patty Mills, he trusted the rest of the guys to win the game. And they very nearly did pull off the comeback.
Man, this game could have made for a deflating loss; nevertheless, the Pelicans are 3-2 and their next 3 opponents are a combined 4-11: the underachieving Cavaliers, the hapless Lakers and the now Rubio-less Wolves.