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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans must continue to show lessons learned as they welcome San Antonio Spurs to town

Expect Anthony Davis to be eager to deliver the win and reach 10K points in front of the home crowd.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Welcoming a struggling rival at home on the second night of a back-to-back is normally a good feeling and a heck of an advantage when there are so few easy matchups in the Western Conference. The Pelicans however, have had their own battles with inconsistency like the Spurs due to a few injuries and stretches of questionable effort throughout the early portion of the schedule. New Orleans can either look at San Antonio and see a franchise they aspire to be one day soon for the necessary fuel, or come out flat and make Monday’s game tougher than it should be.

No disrespect to San Antonio, but even coming off of a victory on Sunday evening against the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the Pelicans should expect to win after having a day off and posting an impressive win of their own against the Denver Nuggets. Not to mention, New Orleans is 7-1 at home and the Pelicans should be eager for revenge after putting forth a lackluster effort in their first matchup where San Antonio easily won by a score of 109-95 a little bit over two weeks ago.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

On that fateful night, the Pelicans turned the basketball over 16 times, leading to 18 San Antonio points, and were abysmal from the free-throw line, shooting a ghastly 57 percent (17 of 30). In addition, Anthony Davis appeared to still be battling elbow issues as he tied his lowest scoring output of the season with 17.

Now seemingly completely healthy — hello there, back-to-back 40 point games — Davis and the rest of the team appear to be used to playing without Elfrid Payton, who broke his pinky finger only eight minutes into his return from a sprained ankle. New Orleans has won five of their last six contests and suddenly look more similar to the team that won their first four games versus the group that went on a six-game losing streak.

No matter the story involved, NOLA has an opportunity to win their third straight game and build momentum before a three-game road trip commences in Philadelphia with a showdown against Jimmy Butler’s Sixers. A victory over the Spurs can show maturity and a few lessons learned for a team with still high aspirations. With that said, let’s get into our three keys as tip-off inches closer.


NBA: Denver Nuggets at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

We talked earlier about the advantages of playing a team like San Antonio coming into Monday on no rest. Unfortunately, that may matter very little considering the two different versions of the Pelicans we’ve witnessed over the last two games. There’s the team that entered their matchup against the lowly New York Knicks incredibly flat and were fortunate to turn it on at just the right time. And there’s the team that carved up the Nuggets exquisitely on the very next night whereby everyone fulfilled their roles well.

The Spurs are, of course, a much better team than the Knicks so New Orleans shouldn’t plan on a positive result by simply showing up. They’ll need to bring their A-game as you know Gregg Popovich and his staff will have San Antonio ready to play.

Big-man trio

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Against the Nuggets, the Pelicans continued to give a glimpse of the fan favorite lineup that plates Anthony Davis, Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic all on the floor simultaneously.

For the negatives that exist from a quickness and defensive perspective, that lineup mixture has played really well together thus far. Alvin Gentry originally unveiled the trio in the same lineup — that needs a good nickname, btw — in the Pels’ first matchup with San Antonio. It will be interesting to watch if Gentry goes to the same well again.

10k club

It’s not been talked about much so far, but Anthony Davis is just 35 points shy of reaching the 10,000 points milestone for his career, and wouldn’t it be great to reach that mark in front of the home crowd while against the team he faced in his very first professional game in the league?

Davis’ 10,000th point will only further cement his status in New Orleans as he’ll be the only player to achieve the feat in franchise history while continuing to ascend up the NBA’s all-time list. Given his recent couple of scoring binges, the odds are high for AD to capture this special feat tomorrow. Here’s hoping a victory comes along for the ride.

Geaux Pels!

What: New Orleans Pelicans vs San Antonio Spurs

Where: Smoothie King Center

When: Monday, November 19, 2018, 7:00 p.m. Central