Just five days ago the New Orleans Pelicans hosted the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs, on SEGABABA and without Tony Parker, were defeated 97-90. It marked the first time in Pelican history that New Orleans defeated San Antonio twice in a row in one season. Tonight we dare ask, care to make it three?
Both teams played last night. New Orleans, at home, defeated the Phoenix Suns 110-106 in a thrilling game. San Antonio, on the road in the Grindhouse, lost 95-87 to the Memphis Grizzlies. Pounding the Rock has all the details in their game recap. Once again the Spurs were without Tony Parker (hamstring) and Kawhi Leonard (hand). They have welcomed back Patty Mills, although he is struggling to get into the rhythm of things shooting 6-18 from the field including 0-8 behind the arc. Those numbers are due for a correction soon.
Minutes-wise the Spurs were led by Marco Belinelli (35), Cory Joseph (31), Tim Duncan (29), and Manu Ginobli (27) and Gregg Popovich played all 13 players. New Orleans leaned heavily on Anthony Davis (42 minutes) against Phoenix but otherwise kept minutes low with Tyreke Evans (35) and Jrue Holiday (32) the only others above 30 for the game.
AD is 21 years old and the Pelicans know the schedule lightens up significantly (just two back-to-backs) in January. He will play 35+ tonight barring foul trouble. Everyone else should be good to get standard minutes as well.
Three Keys to Victory
1 - Bring Your Jumper With You: The Pelicans have shot wonderfully at home, posting a 52.2% eFG% in 14 home games. This, naturally, is a big component in their 10-4 record in the Smoothie King Center. On the road, the Pels are much worse, with a 47.7% eFG%. Who is to blame?
Ryan Anderson is shooting 48.2% from the field and 42.1% behind the arc at home. On the road those numbers plunge to 37.3% and 27.0%. Tyreke Evans has also struggled, shooting 48.5% and 36.6% at home and 36.1% and 26.1% on the road.
These two are key contributors and must make shots if the Pelicans want to win tonight.
2 - Defend the Rim: New Orleans must defend the rim tonight and force difficult shots or other choices from the Spurs. As I said in the preview last week it is critical that the Pelicans force San Antonio into mid-range jump shots in the pick-and-roll rather than attack and then rotate. The Spurs want you to blitz the pick-and-roll. Rick Carlisle proved in the first round last year that the best way to stifle the Death Machine.exe Offense was to play things conservative and make the point guard beat you.
3 - Start Fast: After a couple slow beginnings the Pelican starters got out to an early lead last night against the Suns. You can't beat a Popovich coached team in the first quarter. But this Pelican team can be beat in the opening frame. Start fast, rebound misses, and make open shots in the early going.
What: Pelicans @ Spurs
Where: AT&T Center
When: December 31st, 6:00 PM
How: Fox Sports New Orleans, League Pass