First-half turnovers and missed opportunities at the free throw line helped dig an early hole the Pelicans couldn’t escape. Despite getting out to a 17-10 start, New Orleans scored just 39 total points in the first half and faced a 19-point deficit at halftime. The Pelicans gave the ball away 10 times, while shooting 6-of-14 from the stripe, and killed most of what offensive rhythm existed in the opening minutes.
San Antonio entered this matchup ranked 27th in pace and controlled that area by turning it into a half court, execution-based game. The Spurs also don’t beat themselves, averaging a league low in turnovers per game. In this respect, the DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge-led unit played against the Pelicans’ strength of operating up-tempo and creating extra fast-break opportunities.
“We’ve got to play better,” head coach Alvin Gentry said. “It’s that simple. There’s no secret formula. We’ve got to do a better job of protecting the ball. We’ve got to walk to the line. We’ve got to make free throws. We’ve got to stay within what we’re supposed to do from a game plan standpoint, and then we have to execute.”
Trading baskets in the third quarter, each team scoring 29 points, was no way to ignite a potential comeback either. However, Gentry pulled a new trick from his sleeve, one many had been waiting for, midway through the fourth as he placed Julius Randle, Nikola Mirotic and Anthony Davis together on the floor for the first time this season in an effort to find a much-needed jolt.
With 3:38 remaining, the Pelicans cut what had been a 21-point deficit to single digits but were outlasted by the Spurs in the end. Jrue Holiday led all scorers with 29 points, adding eight assists and four rebounds. Close behind, Mirotic recorded a double-double with 22 points and 16 rebounds.
Davis and Randle struggled to find their touch and combined to shoot 36 percent on the night. Randle had a particularly tough time with his free throw attempts, shooting 4-of-12. DeRozan and Aldridge dropped 26 and 22 points respectively to seal the victory for San Antonio.
This loss marked the fifth straight for the New Orleans Pelicans. A five-game road trip through the Western Conference will come to an end with the team traveling to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday before returning home to take on the Chicago Bulls on Nov. 7.