Facing a team that had yet to record a loss on their home floor in February was always going to make for tough sledding. In the first half, the Pelicans largely stayed toe-to-toe with the Spurs, putting forth the necessary effort to perhaps steal a victory. During the third quarter, they showed excellent resiliency. However, just as it's the case with any other middling team, their performance wavered, which happened to come in the fourth quarter, and the Spurs pounced.
The Pelicans started the game on fire, building a 17-10 lead more than midway through the first quarter. Less than a minute later, New Orleans was ahead 21-14. Anthony Davis started 4-5 from the floor for a quick 10 points. However, the Spurs proceeded to finish the quarter on a 13-6 run, highlighted by Danny Green drilling three straight jumpers which included a couple of threes, to take a 30-27 lead.
In the second quarter, the game turned into a war of attrition. After the Pelicans scored 8 points in a little over the first several minutes, it took over the next 8 minutes to add another 8 points. Crazy Eights!
Fortunately, the Spurs were not able to take advantage as the Pelicans entered halftime down 53-45. Ryan Anderson missed all five of his field goal attempts, and as a team, New Orleans made just 1 out of 10 three-point attempts. All things considered, remaining within striking distance while shooting less than half the same amount of free throws (10-4) was heartening.
Then, the third quarter began. The Spurs scored 7 straight points while Norris Cole and Davis didn't even hit the rim on their first attempts out of intermission. Just when Mardi Gras fans everywhere were ready to throw in the towel after the Spurs had build a 15-point lead, the Pelicans stormed right back to cut the deficit to 1.
That's right, New Orleans went on a 20-6 run, but the Pelicans didn't let off the gas. They started trading leads with the Spurs, plenty of ties too. However, San Antonio are championship caliber for a reason. Just a turnover here by Davis and a charging foul by Holiday there, opened the window ever so slightly and the Spurs capitalized on the mistakes to take a 4-point lead into the final frame.
David Wesley said it best at the end of the third quarter, "Heck of an answer by the Pelicans." He was absolutely right. New Orleans had not fared well with adversity on the road, and a quick 15-point deficit out of halftime normally spelled doom. If I had to choose the biggest factor for the turnaround, it would undoubtedly be Anthony Davis. Through three quarters, his line was all sparkly: 25 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and 4 blocks. A possible 5x5 line?
Nope, and no to the win too. The Pelicans never overcame the 4-point hump, and towards the end of the game, the Spurs increasingly extended their cushion. Too many turnovers (Pelicans finished with 19), not enough makes and not enough stops were all to blame. Hey, it really was mission impossible. Perfection was required just to be able to sniff a win in the waning moments and it didn't happen.
Davis finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds but the needle never moved from the number 4 in the assist, steal and block departments. A magical 5x5 line is going to have to wait a while longer. Jrue Holiday scored 20 points (but missed his final 6 attempts), dished out 5 assists, grabbed 4 rebounds and picked off two steals. After a scoreless first half, Anderson finished with the bare minimum double-double (10 points/10 rebounds). Norris Cole added 14 points, 9 assists and 4 rebounds, but it took him 17 shots to reach that scoring total.
The Spurs were led by LaMarcus Aldridge (36 points on 20 shots) and Kawhi Leonard (26 points on 17 shots). They combined to also add 11 rebounds, 2 steals and 5 blocks. The future in San Antonio is going to be just fine once Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are long gone.