The New Orleans Pelicans (39-28) have never enjoyed any sustained success against the San Antonio Spurs (38-30). From among the 58 total regular season meetings, the Spurs have walked away victorious in 42 of those contests and the Pelicans have never won more than two consecutive games.
Until possibly now.
With a win over the Silver and Black on Thursday evening, the Pelicans would enjoy their first three-game winning streak over the Spurs. Cool, for sure, however, as you’re probably well aware, all eyes will be focused on a much bigger prize.
Another win over San Antonio this season means New Orleans would own a potentially important tiebreaker. Also, it would tack on another L in the loss column for a team that currently resides in ninth position in the Western Conference. The Spurs have been in a tailspin of late, having lost 11 of 16 games since the start of February, so another small push down the ladder would help immensely from a New Orleans perspective.
No doubt, the Spurs are getting desperate to stay in this playoff hunt. Their franchise, a long and storied one, hasn’t missed out on a postseason appearance since the 1996-97 season — Yep, that’s when Tim Duncan was a mere twinkle in Gregg Popovich’s eye. Not even a week ago, there was an announcement made that Kawhi Leonard would return to action against the Pelicans. But then just a few days later there was a change of heart.
Sources: San Antonio star Kawhi Leonard is expected to remain out through Thursday’s game against New Orleans. He plans to continue evaluating the quadriceps injury for a hopeful return.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 13, 2018
Having said all of this, the Pelicans cannot take the Spurs lightly. They’re “The Spurs” until proven otherwise so no one is allowed to write them off just yet. Until this last month and a half, Popovich had the Spurs positioned solidly in third place in the Western Conference. The rotations around LaMarcus Aldridge were winning despite Leonard appearing in only nine games. Would anyone be surprised if San Antonio suddenly turns things around enough to sneak into the playoffs?
On Tuesday, when the Pelicans were having trouble dispatching the Charlotte Hornets, the Spurs kicked off a six-game home stand by flat-out embarrassing the Orlando Magic. San Antonio may not be championship material, but there’s enough pride remaining within the walls of their locker room that every single member of their roster is going to give 110% for the best coach in the league. That should be an unsettling thought.
Three Keys to Victory
Find a way to free up Anthony Davis. In their last meeting with the Spurs, Davis came up big in the final seconds to ensure the 121-116 victory. He collected a clutch offensive rebound after Jrue Holiday missed a pair of important free throws when the Pelicans held a precarious one-point advantage. Davis promptly went to the line and sank both freebies. Up until that point though, Davis had been somewhat quiet with just 22 points (he finished with 26) as San Antonio had done a wonderful job of crowding him at every opportunity. Let’s hope Alvin Gentry and his staff can find a way to free up AD for a lot more shots.
Match the Spurs intensity. This one’s always self explanatory but nevertheless super duper important. If New Orleans can treat Thursday’s matchup like a playoff game, they should find themselves in good position to leave San Antonio with a victory.
Run San Antonio into the ground. The Spurs have a 6-10 record when the pace of the game has surpassed 100 possessions. In both New Orleans wins, the pace was north of 100. Let’s make it a third time.
What: New Orleans Pelicans at San Antonio Spurs
Where: AT&T Center
When: March 15, 2018, 7:30 PM Central
How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM